LON­DON FALL­ING Is it the best or worst time to in­vest in UK prop­erty?

A four-air­line flyby makes for a state­ment to be proud of – and pos­si­bly a fu­ture to ex­pect

Arabian Business English - - FRONT PAGE -

I’D EX­PECTED A THUN­DER­ING of air­craft engines in the af­ter­noon skies on De­cem­ber 2nd. Perched on top of my apart­ment bal­cony I waited a half hour for the “his­toric sur­prise” that Emi­rates and Fly­dubai had told us to watch out for. I hadn’t got­ten the tim­ing wrong. I was just ex­cited.

When 13:54 rolled by, though, and all four UAE car­ri­ers – Air Ara­bia, Emi­rates, Eti­had and Fly­dubai – emerged from the hori­zon to fly past the At­lantis on the coun­try’s 47th Na­tional Day, the scene was as unas­sum­ing to the un­trained eye as the UAE’s size on the world map. And yet two A380s, a pair of Boe­ing 737s, trailed by seven Al Fur­san stunt jets va­p­ing the UAE flag was, to me, an unimag­in­ably sur­real sight.

I’ve spent the bet­ter part of two-thirds of my life in the UAE. One of my first mem­o­ries of what is now Ter­mi­nal 1 at DXB is see­ing peo­ple slip and fall as they at­tempted to ma­neu­ver the slick ramp that spi­raled down on to the tar­mac be­fore they boarded their flights.

Sit­ting on an Emi­rates flight to Karachi, I was five years old when I was per­plexed by what fly­ing on a plane meant; it didn’t feel like we were mov­ing. Could it be that some­one was chang­ing the set out­side the win­dow? It was prob­a­bly a thought only a child could dream up – al­though years later while re-watch­ing The Tru­man Show on an Emi­rates flight, I won­dered if the film’s cre­ators had the same thought.

Now, nearly three decades later and hav­ing read some books and gained some ex­pe­ri­ence, it was still hard to hold back a child-like fas­ci­na­tion with see­ing four air­lines, all from a coun­try that when I was born had none, fly­ing past to­gether. It’s all hap­pened so fast. There must be so much more on the hori­zon, right?

Sig­nalling the fu­ture

The fly­past was in­tended to ra­di­ate sol­i­dar­ity and har­mony with the UAE’s ideals; to show that the air­lines and com­bined avi­a­tion in­dus­try were punch­ing above their weight as they as­pired to be much bet­ter than great. And they did it with a swan­like syn­chronic­ity.

A day ear­lier, while hang­ing out with Emi­rates’ PR team, hav­ing dis­cov­ered they were up to some­thing, I couldn’t help but ask about the one word that’s popped into the mind of ev­ery avi­a­tion jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing the re­gion: merger?

I was for­tu­nate to get just an eye-roll and a smile. When I’d last pushed the ques­tion with the ever-pa­tient Fly­dubai CEO Ghaith al Ghaith, af­ter the car­rier had just con­firmed the Mid­dle East’s largest sin­gleaisle air­craft or­der fol­lowed by a code­share part­ner­ship with Emi­rates, he’d said, “You can’t help your­self can you?” There’s a video of me ask­ing Air Ara­bia’s Adel Ali the same ques­tion, and if you watch closely there’s a bit of a laugh in his re­sponse as well.

So, maybe a tem­po­rary ab­sti­nence from men­tion of merg­ers is in or­der. Fair enough, it does sound a bit sim­plis­tic at times: like us­ing New­to­nian physics to ex­plain quan­tum me­chan­ics.

How­ever, it was Emi­rates’ CEO Sheikh Ahmed who spun the wheels in mo­tion in our heads when he dropped in con­ver­sa­tion that other forces that could find room to play: ground han­dling, main­te­nance, tal­ent, etc.

Learn­ing to co­op­er­ate

In the time since, Eti­had and Emi­rates have al­ready de­cided to share pilots; could Emi­rates Group’s Dnata han­dle

Eti­had’s ground op­er­a­tions at its des­ti­na­tions in Europe? Could Eti­had Air­ways En­gi­neer­ing pro­vide ser­vices for the UAE’s other air­lines? Air Ara­bia is do­ing well over in Shar­jah, but like physi­cists at­tempt­ing to align grav­ity with the stan­dard model, is some­one some­where won­der­ing if it could fit into a com­bined strat­egy and do even bet­ter?

At some point in the com­ing decades, a closer align­ment is all but guar­an­teed. Some mat­ters take time to be­come ap­par­ent. How­ever, if you put it into per­spec­tive, all of the cur­rent avi­a­tion in­dus­try emerged in the last 30 odd years, and a key fea­ture of late has been co­op­er­a­tion. So in terms of look­ing ahead at what’s next? It’s some­thing we’ve all learned to ex­pect.

And thank you, by the way, for that beau­ti­ful fly-by. It made my long week­end.

Q AT SOME POINT IN THE COM­ING DECADES A CLOSER ALIGN­MENT IS ALL BUT GUAR­AN­TEED. BUT SOME MAT­TERS TAKE TIME TO BE­COME AP­PAR­ENT”

A na­tional dis­play: The four air­lines com­bined for a dra­matic show

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