Asma Al Rahma, Country Manager – Cyprus at Emirates speaks exclusively to Cyprus Traveller and reveals how the island benefits from the fact that the aviation giant is a global connector of people, places and economies.
CT: Cyprus was among the first European countries to be served by Emirates in 1994. Why was the island amongst your first European destinations?
Asma: Cyprus was among the first European destinations that Emirates started flying to because of the important connection for both passengers and cargo between the Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean. Emirates’ journey in Cyrus began in 1994 and since then the airline has become the primary choice for people travelling between Cyprus and Dubai.
CT: Emirates has reported to have had a direct positive impact on the Cyprus economy itself. How exactly has the company benefited the local economy?
Asma: 21 years after launching its service, Emirates’ commitment to Cyprus remains as strong as ever. Providing the Cypriot economy with vital links to the East and beyond, Emirates has a direct positive impact on the economy of Cyprus itself. Besides carrying thousands of passengers, we are also a very important service provider to industry in Cyprus by providing valuable air freight space to import and export crucial supplies to the manufacturing and services industries.
Ranked as the major scheduled operator, Emirates operates two daily flights from Larnaka: one to Dubai in the afternoon and an earlier one to Malta on the same day. In its 15 tons of cargo per flight, Emirates carries refrigerated items including fish, vegetables and flowers, live animals, pharmaceuticals, valuables, cars and other general items.
Emirates employs a number of Cypriot nationals across its businesses in roles which include: captains and first officers; cabin crew; engineers and cargo managers; airport services personnel and administrative staff in both Cyprus and Dubai.
CT: You have previously represented Emirates in Kuwait and Oman before your current position here in Cyprus. What have been the biggest achievements and challenges you have faced thus far here?
Asma: Every market has its own challenges. However, Emirates objectives, which are to explore business potential, provide best services for our passengers, increase market share and promote Dubai, remain the same.
CT: Where are the majority of your passengers arriving into Cyprus coming from and why do you believe this to be the case? What about outbound destinations?
Asma: Most passengers hail from Dubai, the Far East, as well as other Southeast Asian countries, while a significant number of passengers also come from Malta – thanks to our convenient connector flight. Due to the Cypriot diaspora in Australia, we also have a number of passengers travelling to and from the country to visit with family and friends.
Outbound destinations such as Dubai, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Bangkok, Phuket, Bali, China and Singapore are high on our customers’ preference lists. We are also experiencing an increasing demand for flights to South Africa and the Americas, particularly New York and Buenos Aires.
CT: Are there any upcoming developments that the Cyprus travel industry can expect from Emirates?
Asma: Emirates is constantly reviewing its offerings in order to continue to provide the level of product and service expected by customers, whether by introducing new aircraft to our fleet or a new destination. This year the airline added six additional routes to its global network, including Bali (Indonesia), Orlando (United States), Mashhad (Iran) and most recently Bologna (Italy). On February 1, 2016, Emirates will commence service to Panama City, which will be the longest non-stop flight in the world and will be Emirates’ first gateway destination in Central America.
We have also introduced free passenger WiFi on over 100 of our aircraft, customers can relax and enjoy up to 2,000 entertainment channels on our ice system and refreshed amenity kits in Business and First Class.
CT: Personally speaking, should a Middle East traveller seek your opinion as to where and what to do when they visit Cyprus, where would you recommend them to go?
Asma: As one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean, Cyprus offers a familiar yet different culture to the traveller from the Middle East. A visit to Cyprus blends traditions, cultures, historical sites, food and ways of Mediterranean living. I’ve lived in Cyprus for a year and would always recommend visiting friends to see the old parts in cities, the village cores and also the amphitheatre at Kourion. The Troodos Mountains and the Akamas district are also ‘must visit’ areas.
CT: Do you have a final message for the Cyprus Traveller audience?
Asma: Our employees are experienced, knowledgeable and devoted professionals who help to keep Emirates as the airline of choice. This further sustains our airline’s commitment as the enabler of global connectivity and of meaningful experiences from the moment a person in Cyprus comes in contact with our brand.
Another point I would like to add is that, earlier this year, Emirates reached the top 200 of the world’s biggest brands, according to the Brand Finance Global’s “top 500 most valuable brands in the world” report. The airline intends to further improve its position by becoming one of the world’s leading lifestyle brands.
As a global airline, we believe that a consistent investment in new products, services and technologies has played a key role in our strong business performance over the last 30 years. We have maintained a consistent approach to growth by way of new aircraft orders and deliveries, and with the addition of new destinations: currently more than 140 destinations in 79 countries and territories, including 16 cargo-only services.
For Emirates, it has always been important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the introduction of new technologies leading to product innovation and service delivery. This is why – just to mention only a few historic milestones – we were the first to offer personal video systems in all seats in all classes throughout the fleet way back in 1992, to allow passengers to use their own mobile phone for calls and sms in 2008, and to offer a total of 500 films onboard in 2015. Furthermore, this year, for the 11th consecutive year, Emirates was awarded with the World’s Best Airline Inflight Entertainment at the 2015 SKYTRAX World Airline Awards.
Travelling with Emirates is increasingly synonymous with aspirational travel and experiences. My belief is that today Emirates has the best inflight product in the world. The future can only get better.