Speaking at Aviation Festival in London, Sir Tim Clark said Emirates might create “three or four” types of economy class on its fleet of Airbus A380s to compete. Sales would be via a sophisticated new digital platform that would allow Emirates to offer a basic economy product with optional ancillaries, enabling it to match the low base price that carriers such as Norwegian offer.
Clark added that Emirates had ready-made low-cost feed from sister carrier flydubai at its hub and acknowledged that the low-cost revolution was well under way.
“We have seen what happened in short-haul, it was nuclear on our industry,” he said. “It’s a question of time, the economics are probably more difficult, but it is clear that the place for long-haul low-cost is there.”
Emirates is having to face new rivals, with Norwegian about to launch flights to Dubai from Scandinavia. “We will just have to deal with it,” he said.
Clark said technology was “the bedrock” of what Emirates intended to do and described IT as “legacy” compared to the new digital platforms.
“Things are still in their infancy, but boy, is it going to come,” he said. “Front of house is going to be completely different; it’s not just about bundling and unbundling, we can learn a lot more about you [the consumer]. I’m looking to see a suite of [new] products coming through.”
Gareth Evans, Qantas International chief executive, agreed that digital was the new battleground for airlines. “We can’t make the flat screens or the beds any bigger. It has to be about mobile devices,” he said. “Even today it’s not easy to book or change itineraries.” The whole digital experience will soon change, he said, asking: “Should, there be a button on my mobile that says ‘I’m at the airport, I’d like my normal coffee’?”
Clark added that the airline industry was behind others in its understanding of its customers. “An airline can go to you once a year. Amazon or Mastercard, they go every minute.”