Emirates plans to introduce a new destination in Bangladesh to its network looking at the growth potential in the country's aviation industry.
“Bangladesh's aviation industry has shown positive growth, and it's a promising market,” said Khalid Ali J Hassan, area manager for Emirates, which takes off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Besides this airport, Bangladesh has two other international airports -- Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong and MAG Osmani Airport in Sylhet -- that can handle wide-body aircraft like Emirates.
The Dubai-based airline is weighing its options on flying from the two airports as well, Hassan told The Daily Star in an interview on occasion of the airline's 30 years in Bangladesh.
Emirates started its operations in Bangladesh on October 27, 1986 with weekly two flights from Dhaka. The frequency was extended to daily flights ten years later, and on March 25, 2007 Emirates started flying from Dhaka twice daily.
Since August 15, 2014, the airline has been running three flights daily from Dhaka, with average load of 78 percent.
The flights give the passengers from Bangladesh the flexibility to connect 154 destinations to fly across the world, Hassan said. “We are very excited that Emirates is observing 30 years of operations in Bangladesh, and it shows the sustainability that we have; the commitment that we have to our customers of Bangladesh.”
He cited the inclusion of Bangladeshi movies in Emirates's in-flight entertainment programme as a case in point.
Emirates's in-flight entertainment programme, known as ICE, contains more than 2,500 channels including Bangladeshi movies on six channels.
Hassan, who joined Emirates as a management trainee in 1996, said there is a room to improve the channels to better cater to the Bangladeshi customers.
“Plans are always there. Apart from movies, we will definitely look to add Bangladeshi dramas, music videos and other entertainment products into the ICE system. And we want to make sure that we cater to all those customers in the 154 destinations that we fly to.”
Asked about business lounge facilities for its flyers from Dhaka, he said it is not possible to set up its own lounge at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for business class passengers at present as there are space constraints.
However, with a terminal coming in at the airport, Emirates will have its own dedicated lounge for business class passengers.
At present, the airline's business class passengers can enjoy the services and facilities provided at the Balaka Lounge.
Asked about the possibility of increasing the number of flights from Dhaka, he said they don't have any plan to add more flights from Dhaka in near future.
Established in 1985 in Dubai, Emirates has emerged as the leading airline in the world.
“The key factor of Emirates' success is Dubai. Both Emirates and Dubai complement each other,” said Hassan, who took charge of the airline's operations in Bangladesh in August 2013.
The airline has 253 aircraft, including 89 Airbus A380-800, in its fleet, which is the youngest in the world.
The average age of Emirates's aircraft is only 74 months in contrast to about 140 months for others, according to Hassan.
It will add 227 more aircraft, including 53 Airbus A380-800 and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs, in its fleet in the coming years.
“If you want to go to any part of the world, you will find that Emirates is either running its own flight there or has a partnership with another airline to take you there.”
Hassan cited Emirates's code-share partnership with American low-cost airline JetBlue Airways as a case in point.
JetBlue offers connection options from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FIL), the newest destination in Emirates's direct flight rota from Dubai, to over 26 destinations in the US and 19 destinations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
FIL, which is the airline's 11th destination in the US, serves the Miami and South Florida areas, and Emirates passengers can travel beyond this region with JetBlue.