IT SEEMS that every time one opens a newspaper in the Gulf at the present time, another airline has been launched.
Do the people in this region have a magic formula unknown to the rest of the world? The answer to the question above is No, No and No. There is no magic formula to running an airline in the Gulf. Passengers do not pay more for their tickets. In fact, two of the airlines are expecting them to pay less with their low-cost operations.
We must, therefore, assume that national prestige becomes part of the equation. We are told that Emirates is the most successful airline in the region – and perhaps it is this profitable operation, which has tempted various governments and investors to try to emulate Dubai’s success?
Let us consider what it takes to operate a carrier. Maybe we can all start up an airline?
1. We need a core of experienced airline staff, who have been involved in the airline industry for many years to create the senior management. These are pricey folk and not many are available in the Gulf, unless we try to poach them from existing carriers. So, we will have to go headhunting in the international civil aviation industry marketplace.
2. We will need offices for this team in the city and at the airport as well as necessary office equipment.
3. Once the management team has been secured, we have to begin checking out aircraft. We can probably wet-lease them initially, thus we don’t have to engage pilots, just some cabin attendants. We will have to decide where to fly – should it be long-haul or short-haul? This is quite important, when choosing aircraft types. The cabin attendants need training, so we must book time at an airline training college and we should have a uniform designed for them.
4. Talking about design – we need a livery for the aircraft. And what about a name for the new airline?
5. Now we have to decide the type of service we are going to offer. If we choose to be a low-cost carrier, perhaps we can charge the passengers for food?
6. Next we have to choose menus, cutlery, cups, saucers, napkins... and there has to be a safety film on board the aircraft.
7. Safety? Of course, we must appoint a team of engineers as we will have to carry out routine maintenance on the aircraft when they return to the airport, even if the heavy maintenance checks will be carried out by the real owners of the fleet.
8. Check-in – yes, we will need staff at the airport to check-in passengers and we will have to have an agreement with a ground handling agent to handle the luggage.
9. Cargo? Yes, that will bring in revenue, so we need a cargo department, a warehouse for storage, a system for registering shipments and forwarding them to the aircraft.
10. We will need a marketing and sales campaign to persuade people to fly with us – the media costs seem very high, but we know we must advertise.
11. We need to appoint travel agents and we must have a multi-access booking system.
12. What about traffic rights? The UAE seems quiet liberal and welcomes every airline wanting to land here, but it could be a bit tricky to other destinations not so generous with their traffic rights.
We seem to be spending a huge amount of money before we have even received the first aircraft. Someone mentioned that Emirates started with $10 million, but that was almost 20 years ago. We had better find a bank to lend us $20 million.
Competition? Yes, there are a few other airlines in the Gulf, Mr Bank Manager, but we are sure, we can make a profit because we are going to find a niche market.
When is the launch date? Well, as soon as we have created an image, introduced our corporate colours, designed the uniforms, rented the offices, painted the aircraft… we will be able to promote ourselves as the national carrier of the Gulf.
What did you say, Mr Bank Manager? Did we know that IATA carriers in the past two years between them have lost more than all the profits they had made since 1945?
Maybe our brilliant idea for the start-up of a new airline in the Gulf will sadly have to be shelved?
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