Abu dhabi chicago

Chicago welcomes Emirates Airway

Saturday, August 16, 2014 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Sitting around O’Hare Airport waiting for a plane to land doesn’t sound like anything spectacular — but this is no ordinary plane. It is a pretty new Boeing 777-200LR from Dubai making its premier run opening Chicago to new destinations in the Middle East. It is a first for Emirates Airways and expands it airport bases in the US to nine cities making direct flights to Dubai. The other cities include New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston and Los Angeles. Emirates started service to New York in 2004. Chicago is the latest since the addition of Boston earlier this year. Since 2004, Emirates has carried close to 10 million people on its routes. It had an average flight capacity of 86% in 2013. This maiden voyage was 100% booked. Not a surprise there, but the rest of their itinerary for the month is 85% sold.

There is obviously a need as 250 of the Fortune 500 have offices in Dubai. While one has been able to fly to the Abu Dhabi by competitor Etihad Airways, Dubai as required transfers or connections. Competitor airline Etihad Airways is planning on doubling their bookings to Abu Dhabi by the end of September. It may be a good time to pick up a good travel bargain between this new competition. The rates on this maiden trip were exceptionally reasonable and competitively priced. As part of a connecting flight to Mumbai via Dubai, this trip came in at just over $1200 round trip. For the traveler that was looking to do Europe this summer, this trip provides a much better travel deal and a bigger bang for your buck. Destinations like Mumbai usually start about $1700 and go up from there. Europe this summer has been running excessively high with tickets costing as much if not more.

Traveling to Dubai offers the cachet of saying one has been to one of the most exotic destinations in the Middle East without getting one’s head blown off. Emirates made a point by saying they fly completely around air zones that are in conflict — meaning Iraq. Architecturally significant, Dubai is known for its mesmerizing, elaborate and innovative structures including the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Built between 2004 to 2010, it’s architecture and engineering were done by Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and over took Chicago’s Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) as the tallest building in the world.

Economically speaking.

O’Hare and Illinois scored a excellent win with the addition of Direct-to-Dubai flights. While this route connects two of the busiest airports in the world, it also offers Chicago an economic boost. Exports to UAE from Illinois in 2012 were $364 million in goods and services — this means a workforce addition of 3,500 jobs in the state. A major portion of this economic benefit came in the way of aircraft purchases from Boeing. The estimated economic benefit alone of having the airport runs to just 7 of the 9 airports has been tallied over $2 billion. Chicago is now posed to reel in more lucrative business dealings with the Emirates. Studies from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation found that the long-haul flights from LAX to Dubai generated close to $623.5 million in economic benefits. This flight expansion to Illinois offers to a significant an equally significant economic boost.

At the landing of the flight, Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino from Chicago Department of Aviation participated in a gift exchange with Adel Ahmad Al Redha, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Emirates. Andolino, in what will probably be one her final public appearance celebratory moments as Aviation Commissioner, appeared high spirited as she received a Sterling Silver Dhow and gave Emirates COO a platter with the flag of Chicago fused in glass and a map of the Chicago region. An 11-year veteran and holdover from the Dally administration, Andolino disclosed in June that she would be stepping down from her post as commissioner by the end of the summer. Her achievements include the expansion of O’hare Modernization Project with the renovation of the horribly ugly and outdated Terminal 5. Since her appointment, Chicago’s airports have added significant air passenger service, including Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Hainan Airlines and now Emirates Airlines. These alone are estimated to generate more than $2.4 billion in annual economic impact for the region. Adel Ahmad Al Redha, new to the role of Chief Operations Officer, was formerly Executive Vice President of Engineering and Operations. Adel joined Emirates in 1988 as an engineer and started his career in 1986 as a Trainee Aircraft Engineer for another company. He is responsible for introducing and implementing the Engineering Training Program for UAE Nationals.

The plane landed with a double water cannon greeting as it pulled to gate. A Chicago flag was unfurled from the front window of the craft. Veuve Clicquot was served to guests and attendees of the event.

An elegant expansion
Emirates Airlines was ranked the “World’s Best Airline” by Skytrax – a UK consultancy group that ranks airline/airport reviews and rankings. If the launch event was any indication of the level of service, expect the best. Emirates attendants have a polish, style and glamour that reek of worldly sophistication. The aircraft itself has 8 private suites in First Class, 42 business class seats and 216 economy class seats. Multi-course meals are served in all classes along with complimentary drinks including aperitifs, spirits, beers and a choice of wines. The personalized in-flight entertainment boasts over 1,800 channels including a list of over 350 films from around the world. They offer over 100 video games and 600 audio channels with noise cancelling headphones in ALL classes to tune out the screen brats on 14 hour flights. Personal television screens are 27” in first class and 20” in business class. Sport 24 with live sports matches, BBC World News, BBC Arabic and CNN International are live on flight also in all classes. There are three on-board cameras with live video feed throughout the flight showing everything from take offs to landings. There are in-seat laptop power supplies as well as Wi-Fi service. One is never unconnected or unplugged from the outside world. The flight can carry 17 tons of cargo. Passengers are able to check TWO bags with weights of 50 LB each and first/business class passengers able to check two bags of 71 LB each… Yahoo! In business class lie-flat beds and ergonomically designed seats in economy class. First and business classes also get complimentary Chauffeur-driven service to/from hotel or office to airport and well as point in any stopover destinations. I could so get used to that.

Stunningly Civilized

This is not like riding a bus in the sky. This is really is a throwback to when air travel was relaxing, elegant and yes — sexy. Much of how we remember the excitement of travel as we used to remember it is preserved. This is how it used to be when one traveled. One was left with the feeling of being elegant, calm and serene. The qualities that made travel fun are still alive in this airline. While I would expect the prices to be through the roof for this level of service on a flight, it is not out of the price league. I would say it is economical when considering total flight charges on a domestic carrier particularly when added fees are included. I can’t say I have seen domestic carriers step up to the plate and be this dedicated to pampering the customer or attention to detail. If anything, I would say flying on a domestic carrier has been a race to the bottom of customer service. Any customer related benefit is usually the first thing to get cut and fees that nickel and dime a customer being the first thing to be added. 

While a flight to New York or San Francisco might be tolerable given a certain price, those prices pale in comparison to a bad customer experience when it is the start of a vacation, a regular must-do business trip or anything over an hour and half on a plane. I am trying to remember when the last time I was on a flight when the flight attendant on a schlep to New York looked elegant, calm and serene, let alone myself having that feeling as I was coming off the plane. I can think of quite a few flights on an airline that shall remain nameless (but rhymes with “distressed” or “compressed” – take your pick) where there was a grab fest for the peanuts and a cattle call at the boarding. I actually look forward to flying on Emirates Airlines as it is an experience I remember when I used to travel and want to go back too.

-Thom Olson
Fashion, Lifestyle & Culture Blogger

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