Emirates growing and going it alone
FALLING profits and increased competition has caused many airlines to rethink their global strategies. These days, most airlines are rationalising the number of destinations they fly to, either by cutting back or forming partnerships with other airlines.
Qantas' war with the unions over proposed cutbacks caused the grounding of the entire fleet, leaving thousands of passengers scrambling for flights.
VAustralia's strategy seems to be to pursue partnerships in order to extend their international footprint; as in the past few months, the airline announced partnerships with Etihad, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Skywest and Delta.
One airline that is bucking the trend is the Dubai-based Emirates. It has been flying out of Brisbane for eight years and currently has 14 flights to Dubai, which is a hub for its network of 110 destinations in over 65 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, North America, South America, and the Asia-Pacific.
In 2011, it added five new destinations: Basra, Geneva, Copenhagen, Baghdad and St Petersburg. And there's a list of new destinations in 2012 including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Lusaka in Zambia and Harare in Zimbabwe.
In September, they unveiled expansion plans for the United States, with the launch of daily services to Seattle and Dallas in February and March 2012.
"Network alliances don't feature in our plans. We prefer to grow organically and based on our profitability it has worked for us. Passengers know they are going to be on an Emirates aircraft and can be assured of consistency of service," says Queensland regional manager, Jenny Trebilcock.
Since launching in 1985, the airline has grown to 157 aircraft including 15 A380s. It has the biggest fleet of Boeing 777s.
"Our over-60s fares have proved very popular. Queensland is a state with a large number of retirees and there is a huge interest in cruising," says Trebilcock.
For the Sunshine Coast's sizeable retiree population, especially those interested in cruising, it's worth considering flying Emirates as one of the airline's expansion strategies is to closely monitor cruising trends.
"Our customers are able to fly directly to the destinations in Europe where the cruise ships are," says Trebilcock.
A few months ago, before Emirates started flying to St Petersburg, I had the opportunity to fly with the airline to join a cruise between St Petersburg and Moscow.
I flew to Moscow Domodedovo Airport then stood in a queue in the domestic terminal to board a flight on budget airline S7. After standing for over three hours in queues - the customs queue, the S7 check-in queue and the S7 excess baggage queue - I nearly missed my flight.
If I had to do the journey again, there's no doubt the opportunity of flying directly to St Petersburg and directly out of Moscow would be a factor in which airline I choose.
Flying Emirates does mean a stopover in Dubai, whether it's a few hours, overnight or a couple of days. A night or two in Dubai can be a lot of fun as well a chance to recover from jet lag.
Dubai's futuristic Terminal 3 is dedicated solely to Emirates and has two First Class lounges.
"We've seen a big growth in the Business Class market in Queensland in the past 12 months and an uptake in combination fares where you can fly long-haul to Dubai in Business Class and save money by flying short-haul in Economy Class," says Trebilcock.
Other benefits for Sunshine Coast travellers include being able to fly out of Brisbane in all classes. Emirates recently upgraded the aircraft out of Brisbane to two Boeing 777-300s with three-class cabins. Few airlines that fly out of Brisbane offer First Class.
First, Business or Mixed Class passengers from the Sunshine Coast also have the advantage of subsidised chauffeur transfers. It's free if you live less than 60km from the airport but there's a charge for longer distances such as $110 from Maroochydore.
GOOD TO KNOW
Emirates flies from Brisbane to 110 destinations via Dubai. Phone
The newest destination is St Petersburg, which is $1792 return. Mixed class flights to Europe start from $6127 return. Dubai stopover packages start from $45 a person per night for a two-night stay based on two people sharing a room.