I flew by Emirates Airlines to Dubai recently. It was after almost six years that I used Emirates.
Comparisons are inevitable. My first preference was Jet Airways which was unfortunately full, filled up by Indian tourists flooding Dubai. So, I had to settle for whatever was available next, which in this case was Emirates.
It is a good airline of international standing, no doubt about that. The aircraft was clean and looked fresh. We had an on-time pull back from the gates, though the flight got held up from a take-off due to the line of planes all waiting to take off in Mumbai International Airport (not an unusual sight, given that the airport uses just one runway). The food was pretty decent, well presented and of good quality.
However, there was an issue, which happened to go largely unnoticed. That is the mostly stone-faced service by the air stewardesses. While they looked well dressed and well behaved, they hardly smiled, and were not proactive, in the sense that they did not reach out on their own to the passengers. May be they did that to the first class passenger, I don’t know. However, in a purely service-oriented industry, it is critical to create a feeling of being welcomed on board. It should not only be felt, but it should be explicit and well communicated. Though one or two of the stewardesses were friendly, that was not just good enough. May be they do not like to serve on the demanding Indian sector, but I do not think that was the case. I am sure they had the option to opt out of this sector.
The other issue was that, unlike other international airlines (such as Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific, Swiss Air), Emirates does not strive to deploy some India air hostesses, even a 15% ratio of Indians in the total population aboard the aircraft would create an ambience needed by the largely Indian customers using Emirates. This critical service marketing factor has been ignored by Emirates. Either the service provider trains its staff to adjust at least partially to the local culture of the customers it serves, or makes use of employees from the same culture.
I think this is a big issue that needs to be addressed. No airline is without its fault lines, but for an international airline with a global reputation, it is critical not to have deep fault lines. Emirates flies every day to many cities in India and has enough competence to discover some local talent, I am sure.
Well, those are my observations on Emirates. It indeed is a very good airline with reputation for on-time performance. My flight, though it departed some 30 minutes late, made good the lost time, and was I surprised ?
30th January 2011
Camp : Dubai