In­ter­view with Matthias Sch­mid, Emi­rates Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, North Amer­ica

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The Fu­ture of Emi­rates Air­lines

“Ex­clu­sive In­ter­view with Matthias Sch­mid”

Emi­rates Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent North Amer­ica

For 14 years and count­ing Emi­rates Air­lines has been named as the World’s Best Air­line for In­Flight En­ter­tain­ment by trav­el­ers. Op­er­at­ing al­most ex­clu­sively through its hub at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port, it has de­vel­oped into one of the globe’s premier long-haul car­ri­ers. Emi­rates boasts the largest fleet of Air­bus A380 su­per­jumbo and Boe­ing 777 wide-body jets on the globe and is rec­og­nized for its state-of-the-art in­flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, in­clud­ing a wide ar­ray of on-de­mand video and mu­sic op­tions. Per­sis­tent with their rep­u­ta­tion, Emi­rates pre­pares for the fu­ture by em­brac­ing new trends in lux­ury travel, while build­ing on its past, of pro­vid­ing a level of ser­vice that only one of world’s best air­lines can pro­vide.

Please share your back­ground and what led you to pur­sue a ca­reer with Emi­rates?

I was born in Zurich and through­out my ca­reer have worked and lived in six dif­fer­ent coun­tries on three con­ti­nents. The global and ever tran­si­tion­ing na­ture of the travel in­dus­try felt like a nat­u­ral fit.

My ca­reer in the air­line in­dus­try spans over 20 years. I have held nu­mer­ous man­age­rial and ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions for dif­fer­ent air­lines such as Swis­sair and KLM Royal Dutch Air­lines be­fore join­ing the team at Emi­rates Air­line.

I joined my ca­reer with Emi­rates in Vi­enna, Aus­tria when Emi­rates launched the daily ser­vice be­tween Dubai and Vi­enna and from there moved to the cor­po­rate head quar­ter in Dubai for 4 years be­fore I as­sumed my role here in North Amer­ica. The main mo­ti­va­tor to join Emi­rates was the op­por­tu­nity to ac­tively con­trib­ute to the growth of Emi­rates which has been in­deed quite an ad­ven­ture con­sid­er­ing that we had 90 air­craft in our fleet when I joined and to­day op­er­ate a fleet of more than 250 air­craft.

What do you en­joy most about your ca­reer in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try?

Ev­ery job has its ben­e­fits and chal­lenges. I first started in Europe and then got trans­ferred to Dubai where I had a more global strate­gic role. I was then trans­ferred to the U.S. five and half years ago. One of the as­pects I en­joy most about my ca­reer is the rapid chang­ing na­ture of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try and how to adapt to this growth and man­age the or­ga­ni­za­tion along the way.

When I first joined the U.S. team, we had just started this mas­sive ex­pan­sion from six gate­ways with 49 weekly flights, to now 12 gate­ways with over 100 weekly flights. This was such an eye open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to not only man­age this growth but make sure we were man­ag­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion in a way that was sus­tain­able.

The air­line in­dus­try is one of the fastest mov­ing and most dy­namic in­dus­tries with very thin mar­gins which makes the man­age­ment of this busi­ness a chal­lenge ev­ery sin­gle day.

With the first class suites, show­ers and the lounge, do you think Emi­rates set the bar on how other air­lines view pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ences?

At Emi­rates, we are al­ways in pur­suit of ex­cel­lence when it comes to de­liv­er­ing the best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble to our cus­tomers, both on­ground and on-board. This in­cludes tai­lor­ing our prod­uct of­fer­ing to the par­tic­u­lar mar­kets in which we op­er­ate. This is a clear pos­i­tive in terms of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Emi­rates al­ways tries to ex­ceed cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions and this is ev­i­dent in our in­no­va­tive ways. As an air­line, we’ve had many firsts that have set us apart from the rest. We were the first air­line to in­stall per­sonal video sys­tems in all classes in 1992, first air­line to equip en­tire Air­bus fleet with in-flight phones in 1993 or the first air­line to al­low pas­sen­gers to use their own mo­bile phone for calls and SMS in 2008. But what re­ally pro­pelled the air­line and brand were be­ing the first to or­der the in­dus­try game-chang­ing A380 and then fit it out with our iconic on board Lounge and Shower Spa. What also makes us stand apart is our at­ten­tion to ev­ery de­tail in the prod­ucts and ser­vices we of­fer through­out a cus­tomers’ jour­ney.

From the first class suites, on­board show­ers and on­board lounges, we are al­ways push­ing in­no­va­tion. We re­cently in­tro­duced the fully en­closed First Class Suite on some of our Boe­ing 777s. It of­fers a truly lux­u­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with your own pri­vate ho­tel room 40,000 feet in the sky. Game-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy in­cludes tem­per­a­ture con­trols and mood light­ing, an in­dus­try first with vir­tual win­dows, and soft leather seat­ing rem­i­nis­cent of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Why is it so im­por­tant to have these wow fac­tors?

At Emi­rates, we be­lieve the most im­por­tant thing is for trav­el­ers to en­joy the flight and want to fly with us time again. We want trav­el­ers to view the flight as some­thing they look for­ward to and not a jour­ney they need to en­dure be­fore a hol­i­day or busi­ness trip.

When you fly Emi­rates, the ex­pe­ri­ence is never or­di­nary. Since we first took off it’s been our phi­los­o­phy to of­fer some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing bet­ter, no mat­ter the class you’re fly­ing in. That’s why we’ve in­vested so much in hav­ing a good prod­uct - which wins us nu­mer­ous awards, and more crit­i­cally, wins us new cus­tomers and loyal fans. This means fly­ing young and modern air­craft that are ef­fi­cient to op­er­ate, and kit­ting it out with the lat­est on board fea­tures to en­sure our cus­tomers get the best value and ex­pe­ri­ence. It means in­vest­ing con­tin­u­ally in prod­uct en­hance­ments to stay ahead of what our cus­tomers ex­pect – not just our air­port lounges, on board seats and cabin am­bi­ence, but also the “softer” as­pects such as ser­vice, amenity kit bags, fine wines and spir­its, qual­ity food pre­pared by gourmet chefs, free Wi-Fi, Live TV on board, etc.…

What do you feel is the most over­looked as­pects of a pas­sen­gers ex­pe­ri­ence on board and how is Emi­rates ad­dress­ing this?

Emi­rates has al­ways put our cus­tomers at the heart of what we do, and we work hard to de­liver the very best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble to our cus­tomers at ev­ery touch­point, ev­ery day, all around the world. We con­stantly in­vest in our prod­uct and ser­vices, both on the ground and in the air. We lis­ten care­fully to our cus­tomers, and then re­lent­lessly chal­lenge our­selves to de­liver and ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions.

In 2018, our of­fer­ing across all three classes has grown – we con­tinue to en­hance our in­flight travel ex­pe­ri­ence and push the bound­aries of in­no­va­tion. We also ex­panded our global net­work, of­fer­ing greater choice for our cus­tomers by in­tro­duc­ing new des­ti­na­tions, as well as lay­er­ing on ser­vices to ex­ist­ing points. In ad­di­tion to our rich prod­uct of­fer­ings and ex­pan­sive route net­work, Emi­rates re­mains at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy as we con­tinue to em­brace new tech­nolo­gies to reach and in­ter­act with our cus­tomers in new and in­no­va­tive ways.

Emi­rates’ culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence on board was also re­fur­bished in 2018 as re­freshed our spir­its of­fer­ing across all classes with a range of pre­mium brands. Spir­its on board are served com­pli­men­tary across all classes and routes and in­clude a range of whiskeys, co­gnacs, gins, vodka and flavoured liqueurs amongst oth­ers. The new se­lec­tion was made by an in-house team of ex­perts who spent two years work­ing di­rectly with sup­pli­ers to cu­rate the brand new spir­its of­fer­ing. Emi­rates has in­vested in long term part­ner­ships with some of the world’s best brands re­sult­ing in the finest spir­its as well as ex­clu­sive se­lec­tions avail­able on board.

Emi­rates’ new spir­its menu is an ex­ten­sive of­fer­ing of over 30 new spir­its and liqueurs served across all classes. The spir­its com­ple­ment Emi­rates’ world class of­fer­ing of over 80 fine wines and cham­pagnes served across its net­work daily.

On the tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion front, in 2018, Emi­rates in­tro­duced 3D seat mod­els on emi­rates.com, be­com­ing the first air­line to in­tro­duce web vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) tech­nol­ogy on its dig­i­tal plat­form. The 3D seat model is a vi­su­al­i­sa­tion en­gine that dis­plays an im­mer­sive 3D 360 de­gree view of the in­te­rior of the Emi­rates A380 and the Emi­rates Boe­ing 777, giv­ing cus­tomers a chance to ex­plore their seats, the spa­cious cabin and the Emi­rates on­board prod­uct. This new fea­ture avail­able on emi­rates. com al­lows users to nav­i­gate through the Econ­omy, Busi­ness and First Class cab­ins, as well as the iconic On­board Lounge and Shower Spa on the Emi­rates A380 us­ing nav­i­ga­tional hotspots.

Tell us about Emi­rates’ new part­ner­ship with Fly­Dubai.

In July 2017, Emi­rates an­nounced its ex­ten­sive part­ner­ship with fly­dubai. Both air­lines have con­tin­ued to be man­aged in­de­pen­dently, but lever­age each other’s net­work to scale up their op­er­a­tions and ac­cel­er­ate growth.

The in­no­va­tive part­ner­ship goes be­yond

code-shar­ing and in­cludes in­te­grated net­work col­lab­o­ra­tion with co­or­di­nated sched­ul­ing. The new model will give fly­dubai cus­tomers seam­less con­nec­tiv­ity to Emi­rates’ world­wide des­ti­na­tions span­ning six con­ti­nents. For Emi­rates’ cus­tomers, it opens up fly­dubai’s ro­bust re­gional net­work.

Emi­rates fur­ther de­vel­oped its part­ner­ship with fly­dubai, of­fer­ing cus­tomers even more ben­e­fits as both air­lines com­bined their loy­alty pro­grams un­der Emi­rates Sky­wards. Cus­tomers also en­joy new flight choices as Emi­rates and fly­dubai con­tin­ued to lever­age their com­ple­men­tary net­works to op­ti­mize flight sched­ules and of­fer new city-pair con­nec­tions through Dubai, as well as open new routes in­clud­ing Kin­shasa (Congo), Krakow (Poland), and Cata­nia (Italy) in the first half of 2018-19.

In such a com­pet­i­tive in­dus­try, what are Emi­rates plans to stay com­pet­i­tive and in­no­va­tive within this air­line in­dus­try?

The chal­lenges fac­ing the in­dus­try have be­come in­creas­ingly com­plex, how­ever we will go into 2019 with a re­newed sense of con­fi­dence in the global mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment, and more im­por­tantly, we con­tinue to cre­ate a ro­bust foun­da­tion for our fu­ture am­bi­tions as an air­line. Our strat­egy re­mains the same – we will fo­cus on our own or­ganic growth, work with part­ners to of­fer even bet­ter ser­vices and con­nect city pairs that make com­mer­cial sense for tourism and trade, while de­liv­er­ing the best value-for-money ex­pe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers. En­sur­ing that we are con­sis­tent on that prom­ise will al­ways be key. We are also pro­gress­ing our longer-term dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion plans to en­sure our busi­ness is fu­ture fit and in line with chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­ior.

How do you think Emi­rates has be­come one of the world’s most re­spected brands in avi­a­tion?

The suc­cess of Emi­rates, so far, has been a sum to­tal of many at­tributes. We in­vest strate­gi­cally in build­ing our brand and it is re­flected in ev­ery­thing that we do. We have dif­fer­en­ti­ated the Emi­rates brand not only through our mar­ket­ing and spon­sor­ships ini­tia­tives, but also through our com­pet­i­tive com­bi­na­tion of qual­ity prod­ucts and ser­vices, and tech­nol­ogy-driven cus­tomer ini­tia­tives that our teams de­liver ev­ery­day both on the ground and on board.

We spoke about our prod­uct which is key to our suc­cess in ques­tion 4. Our busi­ness model is to con­nect Dubai to the world, and con­nect the world through Dubai with ef­fi­cient air trans­port ser­vices. Dubai’s strate­gic lo­ca­tion at the cross­roads of Europe, Africa, and Asia, has been at the foun­da­tion of Emi­rates’ suc­cess in build­ing up a global hub for trav­el­ers and cargo. From Dubai, we are able to serve about one-third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion within a four-hour fly­ing ra­dius, two-thirds of the world’s pop­u­la­tion within an eight-hour fly­ing ra­dius, and al­most 90% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion with non-stop flights us­ing the lat­est ul­tra-long range air­craft. Emi­rates con­tinue to add new routes and des­ti­na­tions, con­nect­ing more peo­ple with more places glob­ally.

Last but not least, it’s our peo­ple. Emi­rates’ work­force re­flects the di­verse mix of global tal­ent that can be found in Dubai. We re­cruit and re­tain the best peo­ple from around the world, and we’re very proud of our team of pas­sion­ate men and women who hail from 160 na­tions, bring­ing to­gether the best in­sights and prac­tices from around the world to con­trib­ute to our suc­cess.

What does your growth plan en­tail for the Emi­rates’ US net­work?

We’re look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties and al­ways con­sider, try­ing to grow fur­ther. Our fo­cus is on con­nec­tiv­ity of the US mar­ket with Dubai and then con­tin­u­ing on to other parts of the world.

Any new dis­tri­bu­tion strate­gies for the US and have you seen a steady in­crease in US cor­po­rate con­tracts?

We ac­tively man­age our dis­tri­bu­tion port­fo­lio on an on­go­ing ba­sis in or­der to max­i­mize the con­tri­bu­tion of each of the seg­ments while keep­ing a strong fo­cus on our dis­tri­bu­tion cost. We aligned our com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion over the past years in or­der to bet­ter serve our strate­gic dis­tri­bu­tion channels and pro­vide ex­per­tise ser­vice to our key ac­counts in each of the channels.

The de­vel­op­ment of cor­po­rate rev­enue is a key strate­gic fo­cus for us and we have made sig­nif­i­cant progress dur­ing the past years. We have a very tar­geted ap­proach to “hunt” new ac­counts and “farm” ex­ist­ing ac­counts and work very closely with our dis­tri­bu­tion part­ners to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties and de­sign prod­ucts that meet the re­quire­ments of our cor­po­rate cus­tomers.

With 12 on­line gate­ways in North Amer­ica, more than 90 US cities that we con­nect with our part­ners Jet­Blue and Alaska Air­lines, a lead­ing prod­uct and global net­work we be­lieve that we of­fer an ideal prod­uct for our cor­po­rate trav­el­ers.

Is there a strat­egy in place to grow part­ner­ships and col­lab­o­ra­tions with US car­ri­ers?

At this time, we don’t have any new part­ner­ships or col­lab­o­ra­tions to an­nounce, but we are al­ways look­ing at new pos­si­bil­i­ties based on busi­ness and bring­ing choice to mar­kets.

Any new planned routes that will be launched in 2019?

At this time, we don’t have any new routes to an­nounce, but we are al­ways ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial for new des­ti­na­tions where we know there is a de­mand for our ser­vices.

What will be Emi­rates role in Expo 2020?

Emi­rates is the Of­fi­cial Air­line Part­ner of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Emi­rates has in­stalled three dif­fer­ent de­cal de­signs to re­flect the dif­fer­ent themes of Expo 2020- namely op­por­tu­nity, mo­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity. The theme of the first de­cal in­stalled was ‘mo­bil­ity’ which also re­lates to Emi­rates’ role as a con­nec­tor of peo­ple, places and op­por­tu­ni­ties, as the air­line links over 150 des­ti­na­tions in 84 coun­tries to, from, and via its hub in Dubai.

The main theme of Expo 2020 Dubai also re­volves around ‘Con­nect­ing Minds, Cre­at­ing the Fu­ture’ and Emi­rates is cham­pi­oning this vi­sion through­out the new Expo 2020 de­cals that are in­stalled on Emi­rates’ air­craft.

Emi­rates ded­i­cated a to­tal of 40 air­craft from its fleet, both Air­bus A380s and Boe­ing 777s, to be em­bla­zoned with the ded­i­cated Expo 2020 de­cals start­ing in 2017 through to the end of Expo 2020 Dubai. In ad­di­tion, all air­craft in Emi­rates’ fleet will also carry a new Expo 2020 nose de­cal.

The Expo 2020 de­cal in­stalled by the Emi­rates Air­craft Ap­pear­ance Cen­tre is one of the largest de­cals to be ap­plied on an Emi­rates Boe­ing 777 air­craft. It is also the first time that the sur­face area on top of the air­craft has been cov­ered by a de­cal. The Expo de­cal ap­plied on the Boe­ing 777 cov­ers over 40% of the air­craft fuse­lage sur­face area. The de­sign spans over 37.8 me­ters in length and 12 me­ters in width. The de­cal was de­signed, printed and in­stalled by Emi­rates’ in-house graphic shop team. It took a team of 6 staff over 84 hours to com­plete the de­cal in­stal­la­tion.

One word to de­scribe fu­ture flights with Emi­rates?

Bet­ter.

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