Oct. 8--Nigel Page, senior vice president of commercial operations for the Americas for Emirates, came to Miami recently to promote the fast-growing Dubai-based airline, which is expanding flights to both North and South America this year.
Miami International Airport is targeting Dubai for new service and is offering incentives to carriers on the route. Page said Emirates definitely has Miami in its sights.
Emirates also is looking to hire more U.S. pilots and will be recruiting pilots at the Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel on Oct. 27 and 28.
We sat down with Page to learn more about the airline and its growth plans.
Q: Tell me about Emirates.
A: Emirates was an airline started in 1985 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, from very modest beginnings -- a couple of aircraft. We now have 108 wide-body jets.
Air Transport World, which is one of the foremost magazines in this country, reckoned we are about the 18th largest airline in the world. In terms of international traffic, if you take domestic traffic away, we're about the eighth-biggest airline in the world. And they rate us as being the fifth-most profitable airline in the world.
Q: You are here in Miami. Why are you here?
A: Well, we're doing a press conference and also, we're doing a very big road show to about 1,000 travel agents and major commercial accounts in the area.
We're talking about new routes that we have, in particular Houston to Dubai, which we are starting in December. We are also starting new routes out of Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Dubai, and we are starting Toronto to Dubai on Oct. 29. So, it's a very busy time.
Q: And are you interested in Miami as a destination as well? If so, when would you be starting service?
A: Yes, it's a very important market for us, particularly with the cruise lines being based here. We move quite a lot of the crews of the ships as well as cruise ship passengers.
Miami is certainly in the framework of points that we are thinking of operating to. Our real constraint is aircraft, the delivery of aircraft. Next year we'll get 22 new wide-body jets, so that will help us expand the network.
I don't know precisely when we will start Miami, but we have a 10-year rolling plan and it's definitely in that plan.
Q: Tell me about Dubai. I know it is a growing city.
A: Well, Dubai is really the major center for business in the Gulf and has a huge hinterland, really, as far as Egypt and through to the Indian subcontinent. And the reason for that is it has a very busy airport with over 115 airlines flying through it.
It's a major center now for tourism, because they have very little oil. Only about 6 percent of their income is oil, unlike Abu Dhabi down the road where about 95 percent of their income is oil. They have built aluminum processing plants. They also have the biggest dry docks between Europe and the Far East.
And they started building tourism about 20 years ago, and it is now absolutely enormous. They further developed it by allowing foreigners to buy properties in Dubai, so there is a huge expansion of apartments and houses in Dubai, which foreigners can buy.
Why do they buy? Well, it's a very nice place to live. I lived there 17 years. It has six PGA golf courses, and Tiger Woods is building his own course there as well.
Great beaches, fabulous hotels. It's a very relaxed place. There is alcohol in the hotels. Ladies can wear bikinis on the beach. We have churches; we have a Hindu temple. It's a very tolerant place. Ladies can work; ladies can drive. The gross domestic product is expanding about 10 percent every year.
Also, not only do they have an eight-lane highway going between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they are also building a monorail, and they are building two lines in three years.
And one line is about 45 kilometers long, and it will link the airport and major shopping centers all the way down to Jebel Ali, which is a free zone and also has the biggest man-made port in the world. And there are over 6,500 companies, including many American companies doing business there.