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Joyce from Qantas also issued a challenge to Airbus and Boeing
to come up with an aircraft that can fly a full payload non-stop from
Sydney to London, Brisbane-Paris and Melbourne-New York by
2022. “ This is the last frontier in global aviation — the antidote to
the tyranny of distance” Joyce said recently.
In 2009 Dubai-based flydubai commenced operations and now
flies to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East with destinations
stretching as far as Vienna, Moscow, Bangkok and Dar es Salaam. It
has a fleet of 60 B737 aircraft flying to 95 destinations with a further
86 ordered at this year ’s Paris Airshow. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al
Maktoum, chairman of flydubai, said “in its short history, flydubai has
firmly established its place in the region. It has opened up new mar-
kets, contributed to increased tourism in Dubai and made a major
contribution to the growth and connectivity of Dubai’s aviation hub.”
While flydubai is a separate identity to Emirates, the flydubai
strategy appears to be aimed at building up a low-cost network of
destinations to capture some of the growth coming out of the Asian
region. It could be said that flydubai is building the regional “home”
market that the UAE lacks to support the long-haul operations of
Emirates. It has a strong presence throughout Central Asia that will
be advantageous as China’s Silk Road project develops.
At the same time as flydubai powers ahead, Emirates has taken
a planned order for either Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 “off the table
for now ” Emirates’ president, Tim Clark, advised at the Dubai Avi-
ation Festival. The airline has been exploring the option of using
the smaller widebody aircraft on routes of up to eight hours, but it
is likely that in the push for closer collaboration between Emirates
and flydubai some of these routes may move to the LCC carrier.
Clark said that they are now transferring 17,000 passengers weekly
between Emirates and flydubai operations.
Another sign of a dimming of the Middle Eastern hub model is
the announcement that Jet Airways is reducing its presence at Abu
Dhabi as it shifts its flying to Amsterdam and Paris and scales back
services from secondary Indian cities. Etihad is consolidating its
position at the hub as its equity partners Virgin Australia, Air Berlin,
Niki and Air Serbia cease their Abu Dhabi flights.
Change and disruption are part and parcel of business and the
airline industry has faced disruption ever since the Wright brothers
took to the air. Disruption does not have to be followed by demise
but it does have to be addressed. The successful airlines of the
future will be those that find ways to adapt to the demographic and
technological change hurtling towards them, be they based in the
Middle East or in Asia.
Successful airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar were not built
on luck, but rather saw an opportunity to create a hub in the Middle
East and committed money, expertise and time to create immense
success from nothing. Likewise, they will adapt to the shift in pas-
senger demand to Asia and create new operating models to keep
their airlines at the top of global rankings. They will not hand over
the crown willingly to Asia and the emergence of flydubai is but the
first illustration of a step in that direction.
The rapidly growing population of travellers in their home markets
presents airlines throughout Asia with opportunities that are theirs
to grasp. There are many well resourced airlines around the globe,
including those from the Middle East, who can see the same oppor-
tunities and are planning to make sure they get their hands on a slice
of the Asian pie. It is now up to the airlines within the Asia Pacific
region to enact the strategies needed to ensure their own success.
Airlines aside, there is much work to be done throughout Asia to
meet the demands that this exponential growth will bring. Much has
already been written about the need for more infrastructure and the
new airports being developed or expanded throughout the region.
Former director general of the International Air Transport Associ-
ation, Tony Tyler said in 2015 that “the Asian travel experience is
certainly among the most pleasant in the world, but it will not stay
that way without continuous hard work, strategic investment and
Singapore Airlines CEO, Goh Choon Phong, has also highlighted
shortcomings by saying “more generally, the infrastructure issue is
important. Many airports in the region are reaching saturation, but
we are not seeing enough forward planning to cater for the growth
in a timely fashion.”
Issues such the recent long delays in processing passengers in
Bangkok, slot shortages in major airports, ongoing flight delays in
China, looming pilot shortages and capacity shortfalls in Manila and
Jakarta show there is much work to be done to provide the platforms
for the Asian airlines to fulfil their potential.
Dominance in aviation has shifted from its roots in the US through
Europe and more recently the rapid Middle East expansion, but now
the stars are aligning for the major Asian airlines to take the mantle
of global leadership.
▲ Emirates and other Middle Eastern airlines have eaten into the
market share of Asian carriers.
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