Emirates Airlines is one of the bigger aviation companies operating in Uganda. Khalid Al Zarouni, the country manager for Uganda, spoke to Julius Businge about their operations and year plan for 2013. Excerpts:
We have just come out of the festive season. How did you handle the traffic over that period?
This season is termed "the peak season" and our flights were almost full to most destinations, but being winter we had exceptional offers with hotels offering the best prices in Europe as well as the US. We had to adjust our fares for early birds to the most popular destinations from Entebbe.
For instance we adjusted the fares to Dubai to $622, GCC/Middle East to $ 404, Europe $815, India & South Asia $564, South East Asia $833, China, Japan &South Korea $835, USA &South America $1143 and Australia & New Zealand $1838 among others.
The busiest routes during the period were Dubai, JFK, China, India, London, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.
What new things do we see at Emirates?
We have introduced the Emirates' flagship A380 plane to a double daily A380 service to New York and Paris. This took effect from Jan 1. This follows on from an all-A380 service to London Heathrow, to Singapore, Melbourne and Moscow.
The aviation industry is facing stiff competition due to many players in the industry. How are you responding to that?
We have an extensive global network with flights to over 128 destinations in 74 countries. During 2012, we opened 15 new destinations including Phuket, Lyon, Adelaide, Washington, Erbil, Lisbon, Barcelona, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Seattle and six others. We will continue to expand out route network as well our fleet, which currently stands at 195 with a further 204 aircraft on order. We also have a strong focus on innovation and developing products and services that provide passenger convenience and comfort. For example, passengers can now make calls in-flight from their mobile phones board all our A380s.
What plans for the New Year?
We will continue to expand our network and increase our frequencies on high demand routes. We also have close relationships with businesses in Uganda and have introduced business rewards to many of them. The Business Rewards Scheme is targeted at small or medium sized business, wherein companies can start earning miles for the individual traveler and for their company. Other major plan for 2013 is the opening of Concourse A at Dubai International Airport- Concourse A is "the home of the Emirates A380" and will have the capacity to handle 15 million passengers per year. Passenger numbers are forecast to reach 66-million in 2013 and the opening of Concourse A is a timely and welcome addition to Dubai International.
Where do you see the aviation industry in Uganda in the next few years?
There is significant growth in terms of both cargo as well as passenger numbers in Uganda and East Africa. Just last year, this route was serviced along with Addis Ababa, sharing half our capacity with them. Today, we have a direct flight to Dubai, having upgraded the Aircraft from an Airbus 330-200 to an Airbus 340-500 for the peak season to meet capacity demand, and we have a freighter operation catering specifically for our cargo needs. Anything is possible for Uganda and especially after the oil boom and major foreign investments, we anticipate even further growth.
How has the turbulent economic environment in Uganda affected your operations?
Emirates is one of the fastest growing international airlines in the world. Despite these challenges we continue to grow and be profitable.
What's your last word?
I would say to all our customers to try the unfamiliar, create new ideas and form new visions. With Emirates you're not just being offered a way to connect from point A to point B but connecting people's hopes, dreams and aspirations and learning about new cultures while meeting new people. Become a globalist and travel the world - go to places you haven't been before and experience something new every day of your journey. This is what Hello Tomorrow is all about.