In the last 30 years, thanks to the leadership of Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, Maurice Flanagan and Tim Clark, Emirates has experienced remarkable growth, from a small start-up to an international icon and one of the world’s most recognised brands.
Looking over the last 15 years, Emirates has grown significantly, as shown in the chart. It is difficult to believe that only 15 years ago, Emirates was a relatively small player with only 33 aircraft. Today, with a fleet of 243 and orders for many more, Emirates has become a major force in the industry, and the largest single customer for both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777.
Why has Emirates become successful enough to grow its fleet 636 per cent since 2000? Because it brings together geography, product, strong management and a commitment to excellence.
Dubai is a great place to base an airline — on the silk road from Europe to Asia and geographically a logical place to connect Asia with Europe, Africa and the Americas. While the domestic market for Emirates is quite small when compared with London, Hong Kong or New York, it is ideally situated for connecting flights.
Emirates is aided by having strong and modern airport facilities, and a new world-class airport in Dubai. Spacious gate areas large enough to accommodate A380 size aircraft, world class shopping and inviting premium class lounges between connecting flights extend the in-flight experience to the ground.
But it is a superior product, at competitive pricing, that has propelled Emirates to the top. Emirates premium class and economy class products are world class, consistently ranking among the world’s best airlines in independent reviews. With arguably the best entertainment system in the industry, available to all passengers including those in economy, Emirates has differentiated itself from its competitors. The results have been phenomenal.
Emirates growth strategy includes the Airbus A380 superjumbo, which Emirates has used more successfully than any other carrier. Their strategy, to begin a route with a single 777, and as traffic started to flow over the network, add a second flight, has proven itself in many markets.
Once it has those flights generating high load factors, Emirates will introduce the A380, the aircraft with the highest passenger preference in the world. With the A380, and better seats, meals and service levels than its competitors, at competitive pricing, Emirates traffic and reputation continue to grow.
Emirates did not constrain capacity and shy away from competition. Instead, it right-sized its fleet and priced those seats competitively. Moreover, with a modern fleet, its fuel burn and maintenance costs are among the lowest in the industry. In the airline business, being the lowest-cost producer is the only sure-fire way to win, and Emirates, with modern systems and efficient operations, blends low costs with high service levels, an unbeatable combination.
Emirates is a true hub and spoke system, and relies on connecting the world via Dubai. They have demonstrated that bringing 5 to 30 passengers from multiple destinations to another destination enables them to fill large aircraft through connecting traffic. Nobody does it better internationally.
Emirates’ first 15 years set the strategy for the carrier and defined operational and service levels of excellence. The last 15 years have shown remarkable growth and the extension of Emirates reach around the world. The next 15 years will fill in the gaps and complete connectivity to virtually anywhere in the world.
It’s latest new route, from Panama to Dubai, will be one of the world’s longest flights, and illustrates how Emirates is continuing to connect new markets. Connecting more of Africa and Latin America via Dubai will further extend and reinforce its network.
Emirates’ growth is far from complete. As a key customer for the 777-X, Emirates helped Boeing define the requirements for that aircraft, and is currently pressing Airbus for a next-generation A380neo (new engine option) to augment its current fleet and orders. The first thirty years, from a start-up operating one 727 and one A300 to a major player influencing how Boeing and Airbus design their new aircraft is a remarkable story. The next thirty years will bring even more change, and we’re looking forward to see how Emirates will continue to reshape the airline industry.
Addison Schonland, founder and partner at AirInsight, was formerly president of Innovation Analysis Group, an aviation focused market-research and consultancy based in the United States. Addison has worked with aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, airlines and the air travel sector. Ernest Arvai, partner at AirInsight, is president of consultancy firm The Arvai Group. He has more than 30 years experience consulting to aircraft manufacturers of both commercial and general aviation aircraft, engine manufacturers, key suppliers and financial institutions on strategic and market issues.