Emirates Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim has said the company is open to more ties up with Indian carriers, including Tata group that recently won the bid for Air India. Tata also owns a majority stake in Vistara and budget airline AirAsia India.
He was quick to point out that the agreement with SpiceJet was very much on but “for any cooperation to work, we need the capacity to create flexibility between the airlines in term of the offering”.
Kazim, who joined Emirates in 1992, heads its strategic planning and revenue optimisation teams that play an integral role in the airline’s commercial success.
In an interview during the recently concluded Dubai Air Show, Kazim tells Moneycontrol why India should move from air bubbles to bilateral arrangements and how the country has room for more players. Edited excerpts:
How has the tie-up with SpiceJet helped you in the number of cities and passenger numbers to and from India?
The intention was to make it more seamless in terms of the codeshare arrangement between the two airlines. We did not move as fast as we expected from both sides due to the pandemic and it was maybe a kind of hurdle in this cooperation.
But definitely, our intention goes way beyond SpiceJet. We are quite an open airline to consider even having a deal with more airlines that we can add more value including, the Tata group and other groups’ airlines that will come in.
Our objective is to have and build much solid win-win relationships between our network and their networks, whether it is in India or some other places through the frequent flyer programme, through cargo and so many other avenues. We are open to all these opportunities with more Indian carriers if that will add value for both airlines.
With SpiceJet, we will engage once again and hope that we can explore how we can put things back where we left them in pre-pandemic times.
Is the agreement with SpiceJet on or off?
The agreement is on. We could not utilise it properly because of the pandemic. Restrictions on capacity are another hurdle. That did not help the situation to move to the next level. The flights are quite full from both sides. For any cooperation to work, we need the capacity to create flexibility between the airlines in terms of the offering. Once that is done I am sure it will work.
India was among the top 10 destinations for Emirates globally, both in terms of revenue and passenger numbers. With the closure of the Indian borders and the start of bubble flights, where is it now?
Pre-pandemic, we had 65,000 seats a week to India. We were doing over 171 frequencies. India was among the top five stations in the world in terms of contribution and point-to-point traffic.
Today, India is sitting in the middle of the list of countries that we are working with the limited capacity that we have.
So the air bubble is making…
Definitely, the air bubble is quite a restriction to the pattern of demand. Particularly, the point-to-point demand between the UAE and India, which is quite big. The limited capacity which is around 30 percent of the pre-COVID is a restriction and a limitation.
If I look at where the seat factor is between Dubai and India by Emirates today, all Indian carriers are almost at 100 percent seat factor. We are not doing a good favour to the consumers. Today the prices that we are offering are way exceeding the norm because of demand and supply with the limited seats we offer. This definitely hits the price and people are paying much higher than they are supposed to.
Are you advocating going back to the bilateral arrangement?
For sure. Sooner rather than later, bilaterals should be activated because it is not helping anyone. It is not helping the Indian carriers or the Indian airports and jobs and not helping UAE’s airlines or consumers.
How much has the tie-up with flydubai helped in the Indian market post the opening up?
In the 4,800 seats that we share, the ratio is 60:40 between Emirates and flydubai in terms of the air bubble capacity offering. We have solid cooperation with flydubai and the points that we codeshare on cover 95 destinations.
In India, the demand is way exceeding the current capacity. If I look at the 100 percent seat factor by all carriers, it gives a message that India can take more. At one time maybe COVID was driving the whole thing, but today we are well immunised against COVID. The airports are well-equipped to receive more traffic. People want to travel.
We hope that India will reconsider and move from air bubbles to bilaterals. Things need to come back to normality.
Emirates launched the premium economy on many routes, including to the US. Do you see it helping you get a larger share of the outbound market from India?
The Emirates premium economy will officially be coming sometime next year. We are looking in terms of a June-July 2022 timeline.
The thinking is that economy passengers who pay the higher fare will move to premium economy. Plus there is a big portion of SME and leisure business travelers for the premium economy.(Ashwini Phadnis was at the Dubai Air Show on the invitation of flydubai)