Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flurry of news

The Christmas holiday season is always a difficult one for people in the news game. 

Sources get harder to find, companies prepare for the next year, with staff taking time off and schedules changed throughout an operation. This year, we also face a long period between the next major event, the Aircraft Interiors Expo and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo at the end of March.

Even though Hamburg has become a regular stop for the PAX International staff in the past few years, we're looking forward to a March event like no other in the history of the well-established Aircraft Interiors Expo. With the addition of the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services event, visitors can expect to see the largest travel catering trade floor ever on  the European continent. The major caterers have committed to the event, and no doubt will bring interest and a lively setting.This year's catering expo trade floor now sits at more than 4,100 square meters. 

Until then, we'll be stepping up our news coverage. From now, through mid-February, PAX International will be sending out a newsletter weekly instead of our usual two per month. We will be covering our usual topics, from food and beverage service on all transportation modes, to inflight entertainment and connectivity and ancillary revenue.

This change means that news will be arriving in e-mails with more  regularity, making our newsletter -- already a popular source for industry watchers -- even more valuable. Advertising opportunities will place a company's name in front of thousands of readers each week. 

We tried a similar approach in the summer of 2010 and it proved to be popular. We hope you'll join us with your participation and feed back. 

-Rick Lundstrom

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“the feeling of being home….”

Airlines, over the decades, have tried to achieve the elusive goal of home cooking, and Emirates has the same comforting plans, even as it expands in every direction.

Over the next year, more than 30 aircraft will be added to the fleet or delivered to phase out older jets. Emirates made aviation history this week, with an order of 50 777s. It is the largest value order Boeing has ever received.

As Emirates grows to take its place among the world’s largest and most service-oriented of airlines,  those in its food and beverage operations are studying new approaches to their work and looking where past practices have been successful.

Terry Daly (left) and Darren Bott
accepting this year's PAX International
 Readership Award for Emirates. 
On a recent visit to the headquarters, I chatted with Terry Daly the Divisional Senior Vice President of Service Delivery and Darren Bott, the recently appointed Manager Regional Catering Service Delivery at the carrier’s headquarters in Dubai. Bott comes to Emirates from Food Point, the manufacturing subsidiary of Emirates Flight Catering. The trained chef from Australia has also worked for Q Catering during which time he supported the launch of the Qantas Airways' long association with the Rockpool Group and at their manufacturing operation, Snap Fresh.

“What we have done is we have put in place the organization that will manage the next growth phase of Emirates operations around the world,” Daly said. “Because we really have a significant number of aircraft deliveries coming up over the next five to six years.”

The scale-up means that every aspect of the catering operations has to be evaluated to maintain quality and control costs. At this level even small changes carry big ramifications. It has also meant that Daly’s department has to keep a wary eye on competition. While he promised news of important changes in food service in the months and years to come, both men stated that specifics would have to wait until the announcements.

“We’re a great airline, we’ve got some great hardware and great jets,” Bott added  “But it’s really about setting a standard and theme for our cuisine and beverage on board and making sure that where ever we uplift, if you fly onboard Emirates Airline and the aircraft interior was completely white, and you were only served food, you would know you were onboard an Emirates jet.”

Dubai may be an incredible place of growth and business and tourism. But for many people, it’s also home. And Emirates seems to understand the importance of what a taste of home can mean to a passenger who’s been traveling a long time.

-- Rick Lundstrom

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dubai sails on

The aviation industry is gathering for the annual Dubai Air Show the week of November 13 – an important event to be sure.

But two weeks after the companies pack up and leave the Emirate, they’ll be missing the 40th anniversary of the signing of the UAE Constitution.

The already-iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai
A thumbnail history of the UAE -- known previously as the Trucial States in reference to a 19th century truce between the United Kingdom and several Sheikhs -- can be found on the Dubai Air Show website.

One cannot help but wonder if the parties that gathered on that December day in 1971 had any idea what the future had in store for the region.

The UAE seems to be shedding the debt woes and economic downturn that swept through the region a couple months ago. But a casual visitor even back then would have a hard time telling that anything has changed at all. Construction continues apace, the malls are crowded as well has the high-end beach clubs. On the streets, one rarely sees a car more than five years old.

Last week, when a contingency gathered in Dubai for the International Travel Catering Association trade show, gala dinner and the PAX International Readership Awards, talk was not of the past, but mostly of the future.

Darren Bott of Emirates pointed from the window of the airline’s headquarters at the sparkling new terminal for the A380 that was going up before their very eyes. A half hour away, by air, a few visitors had the chance to get an early look at the site of a new airline-catering kitchen that will be taking shape soon in Doha. This month, the Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi will attract the well heeled to Al Bateen Executive Airport, where a new FBO and airline-catering unit by gategroup will handle the flow.

The business aviation sector is not the only bright spot, however projections of double-digit growth in the next few years would be tough to beat. The Middle East commercial aviation sector should grow at a rate of 3 percent by the end of this year, reports the International Air Transport Association. This would make the region the second fastest growing market in the world, next to Latin America.

“Holding up against potential demand shocks associated with political instability, the region’s carriers grew passenger traffic 8.3 percent compared to a capacity increase of 9 percent in the first seven months of this year,” said IATA.

And though uncertainty abounds, and the rest of the IATA report is far from rosy, a commitment to a high-quality travel experience is always something we can count on from the Middle East.

- Rick Lundstrom