Emirates plans to increase its flights from Dhaka as the leading carrier sees potential for growth in the Bangladesh market.
Presently, the luxury airline operates 19 flights a week from Bangladesh with an 84 percent load on average. The number may soon rise to 21 a week, or three flights a day.
“We have seen a big jump in the Bangladesh market in the last three years. Many Bangladeshis are now travelling for leisure to other Asian countries, Europe and America,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, divisional senior vice-president of commercial operations for Emirates.
He termed the trend in Bangladesh as 'a big shift'. Mualla was sharing Emirates' plan with a team of Bangladeshi journalists at the company's headquarters in Dubai recently.
Emirates has also targeted expatriates, the second generation of Bangladeshis living in other countries, and garment businesses who travel frequently.
For example, the airline has operations in Milan and Rome where a substantial number of Bangladeshi expatriates live, and the airline targets this segment. The airline began its journey in Bangladesh with two flights a week in 1986, just a year after the company's inception. After 10 long years, Emirates increased its flights to seven a week. In 2007, the carrier raised the number of flights to twice a day.
The expansion of Emirates' flights is also linked to foreigners' interest in investing in Bangladesh. Mualla, who was Emirates' manager in the Dhaka office for three years in early 2000s, said Dubai's vintage location is helping them grow and make consistent profits for more than 25 years.
“A tenth of the world's population is within a six-hour journey from Dubai and two-thirds in eight hours,” he said. “Even the Japanese are now going to Rio via Dubai.”
The official also spoke about the company's plan to expand its fleet ahead of the World Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai.
Emirates carries passengers from 148 destinations with 220 aircraft, many being the sophisticated A380s.
“Another 290 updated versions of the A380s will be added to our fleet in the next eight to 10 years,” Mualla said.
The Emirates' senior official said more than 20 million people are expected to visit Dubai during the six-month World Expo and most will be their passengers. Emirates has also built a new dedicated Airbus A380 terminal at Dubai airport to deliver efficient services to passengers.
He said quality products, services and fuel efficiency are driving the airline to grow faster though the market is very competitive and the margin is only between 3 and 6 percent.
In response to queries on the airline's spending on sports, Mualla said sports connect everybody. “Sports also promote the products of the airline.”