“We are always in pursuit of excellence to deliver the best experience possible.”

Emirates continues to add new routes and destinations, connecting more people with more places. It is our strategy to constantly improve and innovate in order to offer the best travel experience to our customers. In exclusive interview with TnH, Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, Vice President – India & Nepal, Emirates Airline, speaks about the airlines’ achievements in Indian market and its future plans and more.

Q. How will you describe the success of Emirates in recent years?

Emirates completed 30 years of operations in India in 2015, and has since grown its operations to serve 9 destinations* in the country and offer its customers seamless connections to the airline’s network of 150 destinations across 80 countries in six continents. It is now the third-largest international carrier serving India, operating 10.4% of international capacity in the market, behind Air India and Jet Airways, with each having a 12% share of capacity. According to a recent study released by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Emirates’ operations in India have contributed over $848 million annually to country’s GDP, while supporting over 86,000 Indian jobs and generating almost $1.7 billion in foreign exchange earnings.

Q. Kindly throw light on Emirates’ contribution to Indian aviation market?

In year 2014/15, Emirates carried 5.3 million passengers on its Indian network, totalling 35 million passengers carried over the past 10 years. The year 2014/15 data shows that around 37% of Emirates’ India passengers travelled to/ from the hubs of Delhi and Mumbai, and 63% travelled to/from non-hub points. During the same period, Emirates carried over 221,000 tonnes of freight, 55% of which was to/from non-hub airports, greatly benefitting India’s regional economies, particularly those in the southern Indian markets it serves. In FY 14-15, the India sky cargo market saw a growth 6.4%, whereas Emirates saw a growth of 8.2% in the country. In the period between April 2015 and December 2016, the India sky cargo grew 5.8 %, while Emirates’ cargo operations in the country grew 12.6%.

Q. What are key milestones Emirates has achieved in the Indian market? Some of the key achievements are:

Introduction of our flagship A380 aircraft on Mumbai-Dubai route in July 2014 • Launch on Emirates’ renowned First Class service on Kolkata-Dubai route in March 2015 and addition of a 13th weekly flight from the West Bengal Capital • Introduction of First Class service on Ahmedabad- Dubai route

Q. How important has the Indian aviation market been for Emirates?

We have always maintained that India is an extremely important market in our network and operations. Ever since Emirates launched its services to Mumbai and Delhi in 1985, it has carried over 42 million passengers, to and from India to its global destinations across the network. With strong demand coming from all 9 Indian ports*, Emirates, in July 2014, upgraded its services in Mumbai to an Airbus A380. Additionally, we’ve added capacity to our Delhi and Hyderabad routes by upgrading the aircraft to a Boeing 777, representing a total increase in capacity of 3,779 seats, one-way, every week. In March 2015, we added a 13th weekly flight between Kolkata and Dubai, making it a total of 183 weekly flights across our network of 9 destinations* in India. With this, Emirates also introduced its renowned First Class service into the market, making it the only airline to offer this premium travel service. Growing aspirations of the middle class, an increasingly competitive business base, a large student community and substantial demand from expats to visit their friends and relatives makes India one of the key markets for Emirates.

Q. How do you plan to further strengthen your presence in the Indian market? Is there any plan afoot to start new flights on Indian routes?

Considering the breadth of Emirates’ network and how the demand for air travel is expected to double in the next five to ten years in India, Emirates is well positioned to bring a growing number of tourists and business travellers to the country, further enabling trade and investment. Over the the next five years, we are looking for 67 per cent growth in the number of passengers flying to and from India, with a greater chunk coming from the segment we operate in. The 60,200 seats per week entitlement or flying rights, that was granted to us in 2014 has been exhausted. We are hopeful to see an increase in these entitlements after talks between governments of both the countries.

Q. How are the experiences offered by Emirates to its customers different and unique?

At Emirates, we are always in pursuit of excellence when it comes to delivering the best experience possible both onground and on-board to our customers. Throughout all cabin classes, passengers can enjoy a staggering choice of over 2,200 channels of entertainment on our award-winning in-flight entertainment system ice, with a large selection of Indian movies and dedicated TV channels in various Indian languages. Passengers can also look forward to a host of culinary offerings prepared by gourmet chefs; the specially created Indian regional menus that suit the palates of our Indian customers on all Emirates flights and experience Emirates’ renowned in-flight service from the airline’s multi-national cabin crew from over 135 countries. Our passengers can also enjoy the Emirates’ route-specific wine list featuring some exclusive Champagnes, red and white wines and ports sourced from countries across its global route network. Furthermore, our customers onboard Emirates can also connect to Wi-Fi to check in on their social media accounts, send emails or just to stay connected with their loved ones. Young fliers, including infants and unaccompanied minors, are very important to Emirates. We go great lengths to make sure that the flight is as comfortable as possible for the kids, the parents and also neighboring passengers. We have dedicated services such as special meals, non-stop entertainment system, toys and goodies to entertain and occupy children throughout their journey with us. These services are continually updated and enhanced.

Q. What makes Emirates a preferred and trusted airline?

As one of the leading global airlines, we continue to add new routes and destinations, connecting more people with more places. It is our strategy to constantly improve and innovate in order to offer the best travel experience to our customers. We continue to invest heavily in developing the most innovative and high quality products on-board, not to mention our multi-nation cabin crew who put in every effort to deliver exceptional service. Since its inception in 1985, Emirates has won more than 500 international awards for excellence, including the recently announced “Best International Airline” at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Travel Awards 2015.

Q. How do you look at the existing and potential growth of the Indian aviation market? What would it mean for foreign carriers like Emirates?

According to the Airports Authority of India, international passenger traffic to/from India grew by 9.0% to 50.8 million passengers in 2014/15. Based on these figures international passenger capacity will need to grow by more than 67% over the next four years to reach India’s 2020 growth target of 85 million international passengers. This is achievable, but cannot be done by domestic carriers alone.

As a long-term strategic partner for India, Emirates is committed to future investment and expansion in the market in support of India’s goal to be the world’s third largest aviation market by 2020. The proposal to extend the e-tourist visa (e-TV) to 150 countries by March 2016, and expand its ambit to 180 days from the current 30 days will certainly support that goal. Various government agencies have projected that around 500 brownfield and greenfield airports would be required by 2020, while the Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to revive and operationalize around 50 airports in the country over the next 10 years. This will greatly improve air connectivity and tourism.

*The runway at Kozhikode’s airport is currently being upgraded and thus our services have been temporarily suspended until the work complete.

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