Exclusive Interview: How Emirates Is Adapting With COVID-19

At the end of last month, Emirates revealed a new biometric pathway through Dubai International Airport (DXB). However, this technological initiative is not the only process in place following the impact of the global health crisis. Simple Flying spoke with Emirates COO Adel Al Redha about how the carrier is adapting to the conditions.

Emirates Vincenzo Pace
Emirates is evolving amid the new industry climate. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

High-tech solutions

Al Redha kicked off the conversation by taking us through what a passenger can expect when traveling through DXB. There is a mix of facial and iris recognition systems. Primarily, Emirates wants to reduce unnecessary contact with staff. For instance, travelers can enter the airline lounge and aircraft without handing their documents to an employee at any point. 

Moreover, a brand new immigration facility is being launched. When introduced, the feature will see a ‘smart tunnel’ that allows passengers to walk through without having to speak to a human or receiving a stamp on their passport.

Emirates took great care when launching this process. It underwent several trials and evaluated various companies that were tendered or have shown interest. Eventually, the airline went with multinational technology firm Vision-Box. The carrier felt that the company had a great depth of understanding of this process.

The implementation of the biometric procedure has helped the airline and its customers. Al Redha shares that many passengers view the process as more efficient and faster. Thus, they feel more comfortable. Altogether, the biometric journey followed the initial introduction of the self-check-in baggage drop kiosk well.

Meanwhile, Al Redha says that staff members are happy to stand by and will jump in if needed. They are still there helping passengers who may have a system glitch or a question. Generally, the feedback has been positive from both sides. The airline doesn’t want to lose the human aspect and leave the passenger 100% alone with machines if they require help.

Emirates Biometric
Overall, there is a positive response to the current procedures at DXB. Photo: Emirates

Across the board

The enhanced safety initiatives amid the pandemic don’t just stop at these biometric introductions. Emirates has been introducing new measures across its services. Al Redha expresses that the firm was one of the first operators to introduce enhanced measures to ensure the safety and hygiene of staff and passengers. For instance, passengers receive a sanitizing kit at check-in, which includes gloves, a mask, hand sanitizers, and wipes.

When it comes to the aircraft, Emirates introduced extra protection measures for flight assistants. They wear protective uniforms, gloves, masks, and glasses. The plane also goes through a rigorous cleaning process. However, one thing that particularly stands out is that the carrier has placed cabin service assistants on board the jet to regularly look at the lavatories and make sure they are in good condition for customer use.

Above all, these proactive measures have helped the airline through the challenges following a drop in passenger demand with the global rise of COVID-19. Al Redha states that during early spring, when many of the world’s airports were shut down, and there was an escalation of travel restrictions, Emirates was one of the earlier companies negotiating with embassies and countries to facilitate repatriations of passengers from different countries.

Emirates PPE
The carrier’s safety measures are consistent throughout the passenger journey. Photo: Emirates

Facilitating travel

Today, Emirates is serving approximately 100 destinations in its network. Moreover, it is seeing a gradual increase in passenger activity, and it will do its best to facilitate, whether it is linking to Dubai or connecting to different points.

The airline states that whether it’s for tourism or business, passenger demand is there. However, it is the global restrictions that are causing barriers. Nonetheless, Al Redha believes that after the next few months, and once the COVID-19 vaccine starts being distributed, countries will begin amending their entry criteria.

While there has been a shift in demand, Emirates has been working more closely with its partner, flydubai, which has Boeing 737 narrowbody aircraft. Ultimately, more coordination is being done than ever before with the type’s deployment on specific routes.

Emirates’ smallest aircraft is the 777 widebody. However, the jet is currently working well for the carrier as there is a high demand for cargo. So, the airline can meet requirements on both of its branches.

The Airbus A380 is also operating on flights to the likes of London and Paris. Furthermore, it is also in use in shorter trips to the likes of Cairo and Amman. Al Redha adds that Emirates could enroll more superjumbos into service over the months to come because rather than initially adding frequencies, the airline may instead deploy a plane with higher gauge.

Emirates A380 heathrow
The Airbus A380 widebody is still in the skies for Emirates. Photo: Getty Images

The journey continues

Al Redha concluded that Emirates will continue to take a proactive approach into next year. Passengers can expect more technological initiatives in 2021.

“The main point is, we’re trying to make the experience seamless when it comes to airport operations. We’re trying to introduce some more of the features when it comes to bookings, assigning seats and choosing various activities or features of our services from the mobile applications,” Al Redha told Simple Flying.

“So, I think you can see, we are encouraging and wanting our passengers to make use of the functions and applications we have got today on our system that makes their journey easier. The more we route through our mobile application or website, I think the easier it will be to both of us: the customer and the company.”

Altogether, it is a challenging time in the aviation market, and the struggles will continue into next year with new lockdowns occurring across the globe. However, Emirates is taking action, and it is one of the carriers leading by example as airlines adapt to the new changes within the industry.

What are your thoughts about how Emirates is adapting to the present climate? How do you see the conditions shifting heading into 2021? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.