A behind-the-scenes look at luxury and innovation
On paper, Czechs fit the Emirates airline's “globalista” profile – travelers who want to explore the world with the ease of modernity, convenience and simplicity. Prague is a popular tourist destination, and there is a significant international population in the Czech Republic with family roots and business ties around the world. Yet, when the Emirates brand, known for top-of-the-line service and exotic destinations, set up a branch in the Czech Republic five years ago, no one could predict how the Czech market would respond to luxury travel.
Relatively young to air travel, Emirates started as a regional airline in Dubai in 1985 with a fleet of only two planes. Today, with a fleet of 233 airplanes in service and another 277 on order, Emirates flies to 146 destinations in 81 countries and on six continents. Profitable for 27 years straight, this year 2014-2015 (financial year ending as of 31 March 2015) the company earned a net profit of 1.2 billion USD, its second highest in history.
Emirates Airbus A380
The company prides itself on looking ahead and planning for tomorrow and has 62 of the world's best-equipped A380s, the world's largest airliner with a double-deck, wide body and (only on Emirates) First Class shower spas. Its employees come from 130 nationalities, and the company blends its global approach, as evidenced by a widespread marketing campaign, “Hello Tomorrow,” with attention to regional habits, including the languages and cultures of both its employees and customers.
A few days before their five-year anniversary in the Czech Republic, I visit the Emirates office in downtown Prague to speak with Emirates' Country Manager for the Czech Republic, Bořivoj Trejbal. I would like get a better idea of how this brand synonymous with exclusivity and top quality has fared in its five years flying the Prague-Dubai route.
Walking through the Emirates ticketing office on the ground floor of the Slovanský dům business complex, I spot female staff wearing bright, red fedoras with gauzy white scarves, khaki dresses and matching red lipstick – the same glamorous uniform worn by Emirates flight attendants. I am greeted by a chorus of “dobrý den” (hello in Czech) and taken upstairs to the administrative offices. I wait for less than five minutes before a PR representative joins me for my meeting with Trejbal. Trejbal is courteous and direct. As a leader in the airline industry who's been repeatedly interviewed on his company's success, Trejbal gives me a quick rundown on Emirates in the Czech market.
According to Trejbal, both leisure and business customers are on the rise in the Czech Republic. Demand from the leisure group rises and falls in accordance with seasonal fares and special deals. However, since the company's entry in the Czech market in 2010, Trejbal has watched a growing demand from business clientele. Twice Emirates has upgraded the aircraft servicing the Prague-Dubai route. Currently, a Boeing 777-300ER, with over 360 passenger capacity including 42 lie-flat business seats, flies back and forth from Dubai daily. Trejbal says that they generally receive a consistent passenger demand.
When I ask why someone would choose to fly Emirates, Trejbal maintains that it's the little touches that make the Emirates experience different from other global airlines – an award-winning “ice” (information, communications, entertainment) system with 2000 channels; generous weight limits for baggage in all classes (50 kg First Class, 40 kg Business, 30 kg Economy); Wi-Fi in the air on board A380s and select Boeing 777s and a one-touch Emirates App for iPhones and Androids. Being on the cutting edge of technology means not only acquiring new A380s that are 20% more fuel efficient than their competitors, but also phasing out older A330 models.
As each Emirates flight takes off, a list of languages spoken on board is announced. There is an effort to have at least one local speaker on board for each language represented. With a multitude of nationalities among its staff and far-flung destinations such as Bali, Thailand, Australia and South Africa, flying Emirates is a vibrant cultural experience as well as a luxurious way to travel.
Attention to quality, like using metal cutlery and real glasses in the economy class, really does make a difference in customer satisfaction, Trejbal claims. He has one Platinum customer who flies Emirates exclusively for the caviar. Emirates chefs are trained to adjust their cooking to compensate for the difference in taste that comes from eating the dishes 10-11 km in the air. Trejbal praises the excellent soups in business class and admits that, while he's not much of a salad eater at home, he enjoys the salads on board.
Emirates has a range of services for children, including plush “Fly with Me Monsters,” which fasten to children's seat belts, Quicksilver-branded giveaways for teenagers and the chance to have a souvenir Polaroid taken with a flight attendant. As a father of two, Trejbal says that when the children are kept happy, there is no question that parents travel easier.
In the Czech market, there is a large demand for cargo shipments. Emirates offers a daily capacity of 23 tons in the cargo hold of the 777-300ER, which are flown from Prague to Dubai where they are then dispersed to remote destinations around the globe. Shipments to and from the Czech Republic include spare automotive parts, glass, porcelain and exotic fish.
For passengers flying Emirates from the Czech Republic, the top final destination is Dubai, with about one-third of all passengers ending their journeys there. Although Bangkok is reputedly the number one destination world-wide, Bali is currently competing with Bangkok for second position in the Czech market, which is surprising considering that the direct Dubai-Bali flight only began one month ago on 3 June 2015. Yet, perhaps the demand is not surprising. When Trejbal flew to Bali for his honeymoon ten years ago, he had to make two connections. Even today, the Emirates Dubai-Bali flight is one of the only direct flights to Bali. Getting passengers to Far East locations faster than their competitors is also a priority. Australians flying Emirates have an average shorter travel time by 7 or 8 hours and usually at least one-less layover.
When I speak with my Australian friend, she confirms. “Now that I've flown Emirates, we, as a family, wouldn't use any other airline to travel to Australia,” she tells me. “I'm even willing to drive to Munich for it.” Her ten-year-old daughter gives her own opinion of flying Emirates Business Class. “They had beds that you could lie down on whichever way you wanted. And, really big chocolate bars and a big TV.”
Just days away from Emirates' 5th year anniversary in the Czech Republic, logistics are in place for the 1 July grand celebration at Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport. In addition to the much-touted arrival of a one-off A380-flight from Dubai-Prague, the celebration will include both an official ceremony on the plane and an informal party outdoors near the runway. Emirates is also sponsoring an online contest giving away two economy class tickets to Prague-Dubai as part of the celebration. Over 4,500 participants have registered on Emirates' Facebook page for the informal event. Emirates employees will be stationed at the two popular spectator spots near the runway with water and free giveaways.
Whether you're a business client who flies Emirates for their caviar or a five-year old who likes to collect monster creatures, with the airlines' unique approach to luxury travel, you are bound to find a reason to be satisfied. When I ask Trejbal why someone should fly Emirates, he thinks for a moment and then replies with a smile, “It's easy and fun to fly with us.”
If you're not able to afford the luxury brand today, like the Emirates' campaign says, you can always dream about saying “hello tomorrow.”
Author: Emily Prucha - PragueConnect.cz, Prague 01.07.2015