Reaching for the sky

Emirates, which boasts five Chinese destinations on its network, is part of a unique interplay that has seen the airline create opportunities for Chinese passengers to explore the world, while helping bring the world to China. Badr Abbas, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Far East, tells us more 

Statistically and anecdotally, to what extent have you seen an increase in Chinese air passengers? To what do you attribute this?

Today, Emirates operates 39 flights a week to China – daily to Guangzhou, twice daily to Beijing and Shanghai, and four times weekly to Yinchuan and Zhengzhou. Passenger load factors have remained strong. In 2015 Emirates carried 1.3 million passengers to and from China, which is a three-fold increase in the last 10 years. Emirates currently serves 58 cities in 30 of the 65 countries taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative and is uniquely positioned to support China in advancing its trade and investment links with these countries.

The favourable geographic location and business friendly infrastructure of the United Arab Emirates make it a gateway of opportunity for China into Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Europe. With our wide network across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, we can fulfil the role of being a global connector of people and trade, and we look forward to further developing aviation links between China and the rest of the world.

Where are you seeing as preferred destinations for Chinese passengers?

The top destinations booked in 2016 were: Dubai, London, Mauritius, Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Munich, Milan, Rome.

How is Emirates accommodating this growth?

Emirates Airline has upgraded its Dubai  – Guangzhou service with the introduction of its iconic A380 aircraft on the route from October. With this aircraft upgrade, Emirates will now operate the A380 to destinations in Greater China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Guangzhou. In May this year, Emirates further underscored its commitment to China with the launch of a new service from Dubai to Yinchuan and Zhengzhou, two of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest of China. This also expands Emirates’ destination offering on the mainland to cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

Conversely, are you seeing a rise in air traffic into China? Where is this coming from, and what are the key drivers?

First of all, aviation services are playing an important role in facilitating the rapid growth in trade between China and the UAE. For example, trade between China and the UAE has grown steadily in the past decade at a rate of 35 per cent annually and China became Dubai’s number one trading partner in 2014, after a 29 per cent increase to US$47.6bn, surpassing India. Non-oil bilateral trade for H1 2015 was valued at US$24.5bn.

In 2015, Emirates carried more than 1.3 million passengers and 106,000 tonnes of cargo on its China services. Lastly, Dubai is an increasingly important destination for business and tourist passengers, with Chinese visitors to Dubai increasing by 29 per cent in 2015 to 450,000.

By operating out of its Dubai hub, Emirates greatly enhances China’s trade links with the rest of the world, connecting Chinese business and leisure passengers with destinations and travel-trade opportunities that would not otherwise exist

Badr Abbas, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Far East, Emirates Airline

Emirates and fellow Dubai company Jumeirah are both active in China. Do you think the presence of these two recognised global travel brands is helping boost tourism in China? In what ways do they complement the nation’s existing offering?

Emirates’ global network of over 150 destinations provides unmatched connectivity. Beyond Dubai, Emirates serves more than 75 destinations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East; 68 per cent of which are currently not served by Chinese carriers. Many of these markets are relatively small in their own right (no single point beyond Dubai exceeds 4 per cent of Emirates’ China traffic), and many are not currently large enough to support direct air links. The available data shows that, on overlapping routes, Chinese carriers have the highest market share.

In addition, the UAE government recently announced that Chinese visitors will soon be granted visas on arrival in the UAE, and more details on this will be available in due course. Currently Emirates has a special offer where we are granting free visas for Chinese passengers who book online.

By operating out of its Dubai hub, Emirates greatly enhances China’s trade links with the rest of the world, connecting Chinese business and leisure passengers with destinations and travel-trade opportunities that would not otherwise exist.

Recent additions to your network included the mainland Chinese cities of Yinchuan and Zhengzhou. What was the reason behind this decision?

This new route will provide citizens in and near both cities with convenient and fast connections to destinations in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, via Dubai. We are confident the new air transport links will also help boost trade and tourism flows to the growing central and western parts of China where these cities are located.

As one of the most significant western cities in China’s Belt and Road initiative, and the host city for the China-Arab States Expo, Yinchuan is of great importance for Emirates’ strategy in China with the number of outbound passengers almost doubling to 55,893 in 2015.

The capital of the Henan Province, Zhengzhou, is located in the centre of China and serves as by far the country’s biggest transportation hub and one of the largest economic hubs in China, due to its strategic location.

Yinchuan has a large Muslim population and serves as a gateway connecting China to the Middle East. It is positioned as a hub for economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchange between China and the Middle East region.

Emirates will provide the highest level of service. The airline’s private suites for First Class travellers on the Yinchuan and Zhengzhou route will be the first of their kind in these two markets. Emirates’ flights to and from China also cater to the needs of the Chinese market with Mandarin-speaking cabin crew on board, and inflight gourmet cuisine options, including popular Chinese dishes.

Does Emirates have any other Chinese destinations in its sights?

As a commercially run airline with no government subsidies, we evaluate a potential destination on the basis of highly detailed analysis, with a focus on maintaining yields and growing passenger and cargo traffic to balance our network.