Have you heard? One of the most prestigious airlines in the world, Emirates, just had its maiden arrival into Dulles International Airport (Wednesday, September 12th).Â Start perusing for flight dates now because they are surely going to get booked quickly.Â The airline is offering one daily round-trip flight to Dubai on 354-seat Boeing 777-200 LR jets.Â But what brings Emirates to DC finally?Â Inquiring minds want to know. We had an opportunity to reach out to Mr. Orhan Abbas, Emirates’ US Senior VP of Commercial Operations, during his very busy week.
Pamela’s Punch: Tell us a bit about your background.
Orhan Abbas: I have a degree in Business Administration from New York Regents College, Albany, New York. I have worked for Emirates Airline for 14 years, starting as a management trainee and holding country manager positions in Tanzania, South Africa and the Middle East. I was then promoted to Vice President for India and Nepal, a position I held for five years, overseeing a period of sustained expansion which saw the airline more than double the number of services to the sub-continent in just four years. I took up my role as Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, The Americas last month.
PP:Â The travel industry has changed so much over the years, especially with its embracing of social media. How are you utilizing social media now to help Emirates?
OA: Earlier this year, we launched Emiratesâ€™ Facebook page, as a way of enabling people who are interested in Emirates to connect and engage directly with us. We attracted over 300,000 fans within the first three weeks (and now have well over 700,000), and continue to look at using the page to build the Emirates community online with content geared towards brand advocacy and brand awareness. Our Facebook page was also set up to support the companyâ€™s evolution from a travel brand to a global lifestyle brand, and we see social media as a key part of the vision we have for the future growth of the airline.
PP: Tell us about the most unique aspects that travelers can expect on Emirates.
OA: Travelers can expect unrivaled service, comfort and luxury when flying on Emirates. We have pioneered many industry firsts, including private suites for First Class Customers and personal entertainment systems at every seat. We believe that our ICE entertainment system is particularly unique giving passengers in all classes access to over 1400 channels of entertainment, including the latest Hollywood movies, television shows, music and games. Customers can also make and receive phone calls, e-mails and text messages via the seat-back communications service on all Emirates flights.
Emiratesâ€™ luxurious First Class Private Suites and Business Class service with gourmet food and wine is well documented, but we also believe we offer one of the highest quality economy experiences in the skies. Our Economy Class offers many features, dining and service levels standards that exceed some of the â€˜premium economyâ€™ products on offer by other carriers. For example, passengers enjoy an extensive range of complimentary drinks inflight – including aperitifs, spirits, beers and an excellent choice of red and white wines. Lunch and dinner on long haul flights include hors dâ€™oeuvre, salad, a choice of two main courses, dessert, chocolates, tea and coffee, and liqueurs
Emirates also really goes the extra mile when it comes to facilities for parents and children, which is particularly important on our U.S. flights, which are some of the longest in our network. These include access to bassinets on board, changing tables, pillows and blankets, large overhead storage lockers, a selection of bottled baby foods, special baby kits, food/bottle heating service and stroller delivery service upon immediately exiting the aircraft. Parents can entertain older children with youth-geared TV programming, games, toys, music and audio channels for stories. We also children a complimentary â€œKids Kitâ€ â€“ a colorful backpack stocked with toys and games, and a special childrenâ€™s menu in all cabins.
PP: What are some of the most treasured places you’ve found in your own travels?
OA: My favourite city outside Dubai is unequivocally London. I have visited the city my entire life and it is a second home for me. I love the variety of things to do and see. Other cities I hold great affection for are Cape Town in South Africa, which is both beautiful and has a wonderfully relaxing vibe and New York â€“ I love to go walking in Manhattan and simply soak up the energy of the city and its people.
PP: What type of rise in travel do you anticipate with your arrival at Dulles?
OA: Emirates is starting services to Washington, D.C. because we believe there is a good opportunity to come into the market and offer excellent value for money with a superb product and service offering, bringing travelers more choice, convenience and access to new markets, via our state-of-the-art hub in Dubai. We see our new route increasing opportunities for business and industry, as well as introducing a new audience of leisure travelers to the Mid Atlantic.
Our Dubai hub is strategically located within eight hours of two-thirds of the worldâ€™s population and can connect D.C. businesses to both established trading points in the Far East, as well as emerging markets in the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East. Washington, D.C. also boasts a wealth of world class cultural and tourist attractions and we anticipate strong demand for our service among leisure travelers from points across our network.
We have been extremely encouraged by the strong performance of our US routes this year, especially over the last few months, when a number of services have been consistently at full or almost full capacity. We would hope this trend continues with our Washington, D.C. service.
PP: Have you traveled much to the Washington DC region prior? What are some of your favorite places?
OA: I hadnâ€™t had the opportunity to visit the Capital region prior to assuming my new role, but now that Emirates has launched its new service to DC, I look forward to seeing and learning more about the city and the surrounding area.
PP: What’s next for Emirates?
OA: The launch of our new service to Washington, D.C. on September 12 will cap a very busy year for Emirates in the U.S., and mark our third new U.S. route to start in the last six months, following Dallas/Fort Worth in February and Seattle in March. Looking ahead, weâ€™ll be focusing on making these newly-launched services a success.
We are also excited that from January 1 2013, we will also start operating our flagship double-decker A380 aircraft twice a day to New Yorkâ€™s JFK International Airport â€“ making us the first carrier to offer double daily A380 service from New York City.
PP: What’s next for you?
OA: Work-wise, I am looking forward to building upon Emiratesâ€™ very substantial growth within the Americas this year (we have launched five new services in total to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle and of course, Washington DC). I will also be concentrating upon raising awareness of the Emirates brand and our vast network of over 125 global destinations across the Americas.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.