Lethbridge, recently returned from an Emirates global managers conference in Dubai, says the carrier’s top priority now is getting the network back to full capacity as well as bedding in the US$2 billion customer experience enhancement that was announced in August.
Lethbridge says first and business class demand is ‘through the roof’ from New Zealand. ‘It is still a lot about wanting space and of course with the A380 coming back to Auckland from
1 December there is demand from people who want that luxury.’
He says having not been able to access the aircraft in recent times, premium Kiwi travellers are realising ‘how spoilt they were’ and are looking forward to the product returning.
‘Premium economy is selling exceptionally well too – upselling from economy, which is great to see.’
Lethbridge emphasises that apart from the initial weeks of Covid and hard lockdowns, Emirates has been operating here through the pandemic.
‘We never left this market, but now we are seeing a return of our natural demand. It is all about the future for us now, it’s all about the network.
‘The FlyDubai partnership has had a huge role to play in connectivity to secondary markets where there is a demand.’
Lethbridge says EK has seen a strong rebound in business related travel.
‘There was a lot of talk about how this was going to be the last thing to recover, but it has actually been extremely strong and that has been a big part of our premium cabin demand.’
Trade embraces learning opportunities
Lethbridge says he has been impressed by the resilience of the New Zealand travel trade in challenging conditions.
‘Agents are all under-resourced and all of a sudden we have seen this major resurgence in demand.
‘The willingness of the trade to relearn and update themselves with new product has been awesome. Once again any predictions that the days of the travel agent are numbered have been proven wrong.’
He says the Emirates Dubai Experience programme provides agents with opportunities as well as being exceptionally good buying for clients.
‘The more they buy the more the discount. It helps agents to actively plan a holiday for clients, build in the stopover experience and upsell.’
Lethbridge points out that during Covid a lot of developments in Dubai did not stop. One example is the Museum of the Future, which he visited during a recent visit to the destination.
‘It takes you through to 2071, you get into a lift, blast off from the present and head into the future. The museum really appeals to all ages.’
Rugby World Cup travel heats up
Emirates is already seeing strong demand around the Rugby World Cup in France next year – an event the carrier is again partnering with, says regional manager New Zealand, Chris Lethbridge.
He says the importance of the event from a travel industry point of view is about more than the tournament itself.
‘It gives people an excuse to start planning their travel. It’s a conversation starter that allows them to focus on doing something exciting.
‘The Rugby World Cup pushes stays out and extends the peak, so it is good for everyone. There is always a bit of compromise around this sort of travel when a couple are going together – they will often do something prior and post that isn’t about sport.’