Gulf carriers hold one-third of the orders for the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 – two of the world’s largest and farthest-flying jets. That’s enough planes to put 70,000 passengers in the air at any given moment.
“They’re being very aggressive,” says Adam Weissenberg, who heads the travel and hospitality consulting group at Deloitte. “These airlines are not going away.”
Modern day air routes can be traced to the post-World War II era when airlines such as Pan Am and British Airways built the first global networks. Flights from New York would cross the Atlantic, stop in Europe’s capital cities to refuel and then head on to Africa, India and eventually Asia. Two generations later, those routes mostly remain.
The Gulf carriers are trying to change that. And they have a lot going for them.
Their hubs are in warm climates with little air-travel congestion and cheap, non-union workers. That means runways never shut down because of snow, planes don’t circle waiting for their turn to land and flights aren’t canceled by labor strikes as they often are in Europe.
“These guys are making the connection as seamless as possible,” says John Thomas of L.E.K. Consulting.
Top-paying passengers are given over-the-top service that bolsters the airlines’ reputations. On some Emirates planes, first-class passengers get private suites with doors, a 23-inch television, minibar and a phone to call flight attendants. If that’s not enough, a “Do Not Disturb” sign can be switched on.
There are spa-like restrooms with heated floors and a shower.
But what really makes these Persian Gulf airlines unique is their focus on direct flights to smaller cities. The hub system they are developing is similar to what U.S. airlines did a generation ago, which allowed passengers to fly from, say, Knoxville, Tenn. to Sacramento, Calif. with just one connection.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 next >>