Comment: Emirates' A380 taps the potential

The airline is reaping rewards for market firsts, says Aviation Editor Geoffrey Thomas.

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark calls the 490-passenger A380 a “passenger magnet”. You can add to that a “high-yielding passenger magnet”, if a conversation at my local IGA is any guide.

I was approached by an exuberant couple who couldn’t wait to tell me they were going business-class on Emirates “because it is the A380”. For them it will be the trip of a lifetime. “If we’re going A380, we are doing it in style,” they sang in stereo.

Retelling this tale to Emirates’ WA manager Darren Tyrrell brings a smile. “Yes, we certainly have seen a spike in bookings for business class,” Mr Tyrrell says.

It proves the point, once again, that if you offer passengers something special or great value or are first to market, they will buy.

And Mr Tyrrell says interest in first class has increased as well. Emirates is the only airline to offer first class to and from Perth and one of the few airlines to offer first class globally. And Emirates — and recently Etihad — is the only airline that has truly tapped the full space potential of the A380, with a bar for premium classes and showers for first class.

Most airlines have just treated the A380 as another plane, which provoked a critical reaction from Sir Tim, who said his competitor airlines lacked foresight and gumption.

Commenting early this year on a lack of orders for the giant jet, which might halt production, Sir Tim told Travel “airlines are too conservative and have not put the right interiors into their A380s”.

“Some of the interiors are a disgrace and are 1970s thinking. If airlines don’t believe they can fill an A380, then their business model is wrong.”

On the five-times daily route from Dubai to London, Sir Tim said the A380s were running at 95 per cent capacity.

“We put all our premium seats on the upper deck and economy on the main deck but others have mixed them, which is very inefficient,” he said. “Our competitors laughed at us when we put showers and a lounge in the A380. But passengers love the showers and the lounge.”

Airlines that are first to market are usually the ones that are really successful. Decades ago, Emirates was one of the first two airlines to put seat- back videos in economy. Passengers — particularly those with children — flocked to the airline.

And it has followed up that initiative with many more, resulting in the airline winning more awards that any other carrier.

That mantle, however, is being chased down by Air New Zealand, which is the first airline to introduce beds into economy and to design a premium-economy seat that looks more like it belongs in business class.

And it was the first to bring the Boeing 787 to Perth.

Being first to market means you will attract passengers who are willing to pay first class — or at least premium — prices.