The West

Emirates decade of connection
Emirates State Manager of Emirates Darren Tyrrell with staff Kym Hartfield and Corinne Shack on board Boeing 777. Picture: Astrid Volzke / The West Australian

When the first white plane with the word Emirates written in gold along it landed in Perth, 10 years ago next month, the world changed a little. Emirates gave WA travellers the "fast lane" through the Middle East hub to Europe.


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For if you draw a line from Perth to London, Dubai's pretty much on it and pretty much in the middle.

"We have grown from four services a week in 2002 to 14 a week, which provide 450,000 seats a year," said Emirates WA State manager Darren Tyrrell.

"In so many ways, we are the world's global airline with 130 nationalities working for us."

It has made Emirates an important part of the WA travel psyche - with European cities, in particular, now far more accessible.

One of the largest groups at Emirates are Australians and when the airline started flying to Perth the entire crew on the inaugural service was from Perth.

Mr Tyrrell pointed out that Emirates operated the largest international passenger plane which flies to Perth - the 777-300ER.

It is also the only service to Perth which offers first class.

However Emirates' "firsts" go far deeper than that, he said.

"We were one of the first to introduce seat back videos into economy in the early 1990s - well ahead of most airlines.

"Our in-flight entertainment system, ICE, is recognised as the industry's best, winning numerous awards."

Emirates is also the largest operator of both the 777, the most successful twin-aisle plane, and the giant A380, the largest.

"We have a fleet of 175 twin-aisle planes including eight pure freighters and the fleet is amongst the youngest in the world with an average age of about 6.5 years," Mr Tyrell said.

But the number which resonates with travellers is the number of destinations the airline serves - 124 destinations in 74 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific.

"Since the beginning of 2011, Emirates has increased its European network alone to 29 destinations, with new services operating to Geneva, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, and Dublin," Mr Tyrell said. "Last week, we started flights to our 30th destination in Europe - Barcelona - and on Monday we start flights to our 31st European destination - Lisbon."

But Mr Tyrrell was quick to dismiss claims that the government-owned Emirates Airline's spectacular rise to become the world's largest international airline was on the back of plundering other airlines' traffic in their quest for growth.

Reflecting on the airline's 10th anniversary of services to Perth, Mr Tyrrell pointed that "over 85 per cent of the traffic" the airline brought into WA was from destinations not served by Qantas or Virgin Australia.

On the subject of alleged subsidies, Mr Tyrrell said that the airline had had to survive on its wits since it was set up in the 1980s.

"There was initial capital investment and since then we have been on our own," Mr Tyrell said.

Mr Tyrrell pointed out that a few years back the airline was challenged by some European carriers on its level of government support.

It offered to open its books to any airline if they would do the same.

"None took the offer up," Mr Tyrell said.

Certainly, Emirates gets support from the Dubai Government in the form of excellent passenger terminals but that simply reflects the support for tourism - the world's fastest-growing industry.

Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Thai International also have magnificent terminals which attract passengers.

The reality is that Emirates faces competition from 150 airlines operating into Dubai, which handles 50 million passengers a year and of which the airline carries just over 30 million.

"Our relationships with travel agents and the industry in general is very important," Mr Tyrell said.

"We identified the importance of working with our travel agents and industry partners from the very beginning."

Since Emirates started flights to Australia in 1996, it has carried more than 15 million passengers in and out of Australia.

"In 2010/11, Emirates purchased over 72,000 seats on Qantas and Virgin Australia flights to provide flights to domestic points outside of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney," said Mr Tyrrell.

But Emirates did more than just carry passengers, he added.

"A large part of our operation is cargo."

Mr Tyrrell said that today, the United Arab Emirates was Australia's largest trade partner in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region with bilateral trade reaching $5.3 billion in 2010.

Australian exports to the UAE have had an annual average growth rate of 10 per cent since 1996.

The airline is also at the forefront of environmental initiatives.

"We are also very focused on the environment and our planes burn 26 per cent less fuel per passenger than the international fleet average," Mr Tyrrell said.

In 2011, Emirates was the fourth largest international carrier in the Australian market with an 8.1 per cent market share - behind Qantas (27.1 per cent), Singapore Airlines (9.2 per cent) and Air New Zealand (8.2 per cent).

A 2011 study by Oxford Economics found that Emirates' one-stop connectivity to/from Europe via Dubai generated an additional $US248 million ($242.5 million) for the Australian economy and more than $US840 million in consumer benefits.

The Oxford study also found that Emirates' 2009 passenger traffic generated $US1.33 billion for the Australian tourism sector.

On top of that, Mr Tyrrell pointed out that in 2010/11, Emirates' direct expenditure through its procurement of Australian goods and services was worth more than $US500 million.

The airline employs 4250 Australians across the globe while its ground handling subsidiaries, Toll Dnata, employs a further 1400 and Alpha Catering another 850.

Since 1996, Emirates has invested more than $75 million in arts, community and sports sponsorships.

The airline's spectacular rise has attracted hundreds of awards - the most notable being Air Transport World's Airline of the Year for 2011.

New services keep spreading the word

From January 1, Emirates will add a second daily Airbus A380 flight from Dubai to both New York and to Paris. Both routes are currently served by a Boeing 777-300ER and an Airbus A380.

But the addition of the bigger aircraft will increase the number of seats to each city. Spread over two decks, the Emirates Airbus A380 has 399 economy class seats, 76 flat-bed business class seats and 14 first class private suites next to two shower spas.

The Onboard Lounge, on the upper deck, is available to premium passengers. So far this year, Emirates has started flights from Dubai to Dallas/Fort Worth and to Seattle with a service to Washington beginning on September 12.

On Monday, Emirates began using the Airbus A380 on its daily Dubai to Tokyo service. The carrier also sponsors the UK's first urban cable car which spans the River Thames in East London and has opened in time for the Olympics.

The Emirates Airline links terminals at Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks with cabins leaving every 30 seconds on the 1.1km journey, which takes 10 minutes and has views of the city, Canary Wharf, Greenwich and the Olympic Park.

The cable car connects to the Jubilee Tube line and Docklands Light Railway.

The West Australian

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