Talking travel with Emirates Airline VP Nigel Page

This Friday will mark the launch of the first regular route in the world on the A380, from Dubai to New York JFK on Emirates Airline. I’m here to talk to Nigel Page, Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations (Americas) about this exciting development, the airline’s famed “private hotels in the sky,” and why we should book a ticket to Dubai.

What will be the configuration on the A380, New York-Dubai route? What are some of the amenities?

Emirates A380 on the New York-Dubai route will feature 489 seats in a three-class configuration. (14 first class, 76 business class and 399 economy class.) Our official unveiling takes place today as we accept the first A380 directly from Airbus in Hamburg, Germany. This will be followed by the first-ever commercially scheduled A380 flight to the United States on August 1st.

How much cost savings does the A380 provide over the traditional transatlantic equipment?

The A380 is an aircraft built to not only serve the customer better, but the operator as well. Fuel economy is perhaps the greatest advantage the A380 provides, as this aircraft receives better mileage per passenger than most hybrid passenger cars. This fuel economy, combined with the A380′s range and capacity, allows for a greater projected cost savings over other older aircraft.
As a luxury carrier, how do you plan to stay competitive in an industry that’s increasingly under pressure from high oil prices?

While high oil prices are a concern for every carrier, Emirates feels that we can stay competitive because of our younger fleet. With the average age of aircraft in the Emirates fleet at just over five years old, Emirates operates aircraft that are more fuel efficient than that of many other carriers. Additionally, we only operate wide-bodied aircraft that allow for a greater cargo capacity, and therefore result in greater profit margins.

Does Emirates’ position in the Middle East have any leverage over other carriers when bidding for jet fuel?

No, Emirates being a Dubai-based airline does not have any effect on other carriers when bidding for jet fuel. Dubai has an open skies policy and Emirates operates alongside 110 other airlines at Dubai International Airport. We receive no subsidies whatsoever.

Do you have any plans to enter the business-class-only market?

No, Emirates does not have any plans to enter the business-class-only market.

What are your other planned routes into the United States?

In addition to twice daily service from New York JFK and daily service from Houston, Emirates will launch Los Angeles service October 1st and San Francisco service November 20th.

Which airlines does Emirates see as its biggest competitors? And what does Emirates do better than them?

We can say that with our unique route network, competition largely depends on the market in which we are operating.

I’ve seen your first-class private suites. Quite jealous.

Emirates first class suites offer our customers the finest in-flight experience available. Amenities include our 1,000 channel ice entertainment system; 23-inch hi-definition personal viewing screen; full lie-flat seat featuring in-seat massage and pre-set seating adjustments; in-suite refreshment center; multiple personal stowages; Bvlgari amenity kits; 7-inch touch screen control for entertainment system and seat, dine on-demand service; and sleep amenities include sleep mask, slippers, and luxurious duvets. Our private cabins are practically a hotel in the sky.

What’s a weekend itinerary for first-time visitors to Dubai? (Let’s imagine an extended layover.)

A typical weekend in Dubai would include a stay at one of Dubai’s numerous outstanding luxury hotel properties, followed by a city tour hosted by one of Dubai’s tour operators like Arabian Adventures – visitors can experience the charm of Dubai’s historic heritage area including the famous gold and spice souks and enjoy the feeling of a city changing from a small trading post on the Arabian Sea to one of the world’s most futuristic cities.

Visitors can’t miss the spectacular shopping malls that have put Dubai on the map for being one of the world’s greatest shopping capitals- one of which even includes an indoor ski facility! Evening entertainment would not be complete without a desert safari and 4WD sundown dune driving, followed by an Arabian dinner with entertainment under the stars. Dubai has options catering to every taste and desire- from PGA golf courses to some of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

What are your favourite restaurants and hotels in Dubai?

Hotels: The Royal Mirage, the Madinat Properties, and the new Raffles Hotel are all lovely. Restaurants- Al Nafourah in Emirates Towers has wonderful Lebanese food. There are a number of new restaurants opening in the new Dubai Festival City complex which will also be excellent.

What are the top three “undiscovered” / underrated destinations in the Middle East?

Muscat, Oman, the rugged East Coast of the UAE (Hatta, located in Dubai, Fujeriah, and the east coast of Sharjah are all lovely and terrific for wadi hikes, outdoor camping and offroad adventures), and Petra Jordan.