Published on May 3rd, 2015 | by Jim Lee


Emirates delivers upgrades and contributes positively to the economy of Ireland and Europe


Emirates are further enhancing the entertainment experience for Economy Class travellers with the launch of new, redesigned headsets for its award-winning ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) entertainment system in Economy Class. Initially, the Emirates fleet of A380 aircraft, which currently stands at 60, (with the latest A6-EOH being delivered on 17th April), will be equipped with new headsets from the end of June. Current plans call for the roll out of the headsets on the Boeing 777 fleet later in the year. These headsets have been totally redesigned with a view to improving sound quality, reduction of ambient cabin noise and overall comfort. The headset’s rectangular shape makes it more ergonomic for the wearer, and premium leatherette ear cushions enhance comfort which is especially important on longer flights.

Not to be left behind, young travellers on Emirates, will also receive new headsets on which they can enjoy up to 75 channels of dedicated children’s entertainment, from up to 2,000 channels overall. Emirates first introduced children’s headsets in the late 1990s, featuring a smaller headset band, which is more comfortable for smaller heads. These fun and colourful new headsets will also have larger speakers for a more comfortable fit and much improved sound quality.

The new headsets are the latest update for the innovative ICE Digital Widescreen entertainment system, which in 2014 was awarded the ‘World’s Best Airline In-flight Entertainment’ award at the SKYTRAX World Airline Awards for the 10th consecutive year. Customers in First Class or Business Class on all flights are already provided with active noise cancelling headsets. Customers can check what’s showing on board their flight and plan their ICE movie or music marathon before they fly, by visiting On ICE Digital Widescreen, Emirates’ customers can enjoy a staggering choice of over 2,000 channels of entertainment, with over 500 movies from around the world, hundreds of hours of TV including box-sets of popular shows and thousands of hours of music from contemporary to classical. Emirates’ new Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft offer the ice system on larger personal TV screens with HD resolution: 27-inch (686 mm) in First Class, 20-inch (508 mm) in Business Class and 12.1 inch (307 mm) in Economy Class.

Emirates’ Dubai base

106 aircraft including the entire A380 fleet are now equipped with free onboard wifi with two to three more aircraft being equipped every month

At the forefront of setting industry standards, in 2014, Emirates was the first airline to introduce Audio Descriptions in movies for visually impaired customers. In 2007, Emirates worked with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures to introduce Closed Captions, the technology used by the hard of hearing, for the first time in in-flight entertainment.

More recently, Emirates introduced free Wi-Fi onboard and this facility is now available on 106 aircraft including its entire A380 fleet, with two to three more aircraft being equipped every month. On ultra long-haul flights (over 14 hours), over 30% of passengers typically use Wi-Fi services, and on a recent flight to New York, 66% of passengers used onboard Wi-Fi. On over 60% of the installed fleet, the first 10MB data is free – sufficient for an update on social media accounts or texting via instant messaging apps. Thereafter, and for the rest of the fleet, users can enjoy 500MB of data for a token $1 (€0.89) charge. By giving either free access or charging a token amount since last October, Emirates has seen a near five-fold increase in usage. Passengers on board Emirates also have other ways to stay connected with personal mobile phones services offered on over 75% of the fleet and in-seat email, telephone and SMS services on every aircraft. All of Emirates’ 37 dedicated airport lounges around its global network offer complimentary Wi-Fi connectivity.

$6 million invested in on board medical equipment

It is said that it is impossible to put a price tag on saving a life and that is why Emirates has invested more than $6 million (€5.36 million) in the installation and service of its medical equipment on board. This includes thousands of hours in training each year, to ensure its crew is able to act effectively in the event of medical emergencies on board. During 2014, Emirates delivered a total of 33,430 hours of medical training for cabin crew and pilots, ensuring they are equipped with the right support to assist passengers on board.

All Emirates cabin crew go through a comprehensive initial training programme, which is required by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, as well as additional specific training for the use of on board medical equipment. This includes both practical and theory elements. The training prepares cabin crew to provide emergency medical attention for situations, and includes topics such as basic life support (CPR); medical conditions including asthma, heart disorders, seizures and allergic reactions; trauma-related topics and even emergency childbirth, amongst others. Pilots also attend training sessions covering topics such as Hypoxia, Malaria, Dengue, Trauma, CPR and choking and occupational health issues. Should a medical emergency occur on board a flight, attention is provided immediately by the crew and in some cases a flight diversion is required to the nearest airport for medical treatment.

Medical diversions

On the rare occasion that a medical diversion does occur, the process begins when a member of cabin crew is alerted by, or discovers a passenger who appears to have medical issues. The crew would first determine the severity of the situation, then inform the pilot and consult with MedLink, a US-based, 24/7, satellite medical advisory service that provides the flight crew a direct connection with specialist aviation medical consultants, who can help assess the passenger’s situation in real time.

“In 2013 and 2014, we diverted over 100 flights for medical emergencies, costing more than US$12million. When a medical diversion does happen, we work hard to get the affected passenger access to medical attention as quickly as possible in coordination with the local authorities, and at the same time try to minimise disruption for other passengers affected by the diversion. Unplanned enroute diversion of a flight has its own challenges and logistics, and in a number of cases extended delays are experienced,” said Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer.

“Aside from the crew on board, a full team on the ground swings into action to rebook passengers who may miss their flight connections, make arrangements for the aircraft to be met by medical services, organise ground refuelling and file a revised flight plan. This becomes more challenging at a time when our Ground team has to support a turnaround of an aircraft at a station that is not an Emirates scheduled destination. Diversions are costly and operationally disruptive, not to mention an inconvenience for the other passengers. A single diversion can cost up to $200,000 (€178,572) but when a life or a passenger’s safety is at stake, none of that matters. We will never compromise on the safety of our passengers and crew,” he added.

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER

In 2013 and 2014, Emirates diverted over 100 flights for medical emergencies, costing more than US$12million.

In addition to MedLink, onboard crew are further assisted by the state-of-the-art Tempus IC, a system that allows the crew onboard to transmit vital medical data of the affected passenger – such as heart rate, blood pressure, ECG, voice and video – from the aircraft to MedLink using satellite communications. The MedLink team will then advise the crew on how best to treat or alleviate the patient’s condition, and also advise whether a medical diversion is necessary, or if the affected passenger could be treated at the final destination. MedLink will also advise the closest airports the flight could divert to, based on the medical services available at those points.

After consultation with MedLink and the cabin crew, the pilot makes the final decision on whether the flight should divert, taking into account the specific requirements of the aircraft and ensuring that it is compatible with the diversion destination airport. For instance, not all airports can handle particular wide-body aircraft.

“Once the affected passenger has been accompanied off the aircraft for medical attention, the aircraft is usually refuelled and en route to its original destination within one to two hours,” said Al Redha.

Passengers also have responsibilities

While Emirates has qualified crew to deal with emergency situations on board, passengers too should ensure that they are fit to fly, and inform the airline in advance of travel if special medical arrangements are required. Customers with certain existing medical conditions are required to complete a form with their medical details, which is reviewed by the Passenger Medical Clearance Unit. In some cases, additional support such as supplemental oxygen or an accompanying doctor or nurse may be required.

As part of their initial training programme, all ground staff and cabin crew are trained to be observant during the boarding process to identify any individuals who may not be fit to travel. If there is a concern about a customer’s fitness to travel, the crew can contact MedLink and a decision can be given within minutes based on professional medical advice, thus reducing the likelihood of a medical emergency in flight.

Emirates services from Dublin

Passenger traffic from Dublin Airport to other international destinations – mainly the Middle East and North Africa – increased by 19% to a record 643,000 passengers in 2014. According to the CSO, of these 288,699 travelled to and from Dubai less than the 301,822 that travelled to and from Abu Dhabi. Emirates SkyCargo, the air freight division of Emirates, is also the top carrier for Irish Exports. While SkyCargo has Boeing 777 freighters and two Boeing 747-4HA (ERF)s there are no dedicated all freight services to Dublin although a number of all cargo (freighter) aircraft have operated through Shannon to transport race horses from Ireland to Dubai and the USA. All of the Irish exports such as pharmaceuticals, Irish food produce, electronic equipment, baby formula and luxury goods are carried in the bellies of the twice daily Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft used on the Dubai-Dublin route. Up to 50 tonnes of cargo can now be carried each day from Dublin to Dubai and onwards across Emirates’ global network of over 140 destinations, with exports mainly going to the Far East, Australasia, India, the Middle East and Africa. SkyCargo had occupied the number two spot for Irish Exports and took the number one slot for January and February 2015 as it celebrated its third anniversary in Ireland.

Speaking to Irish Travel Trade News, Michael Meagher, Cargo Manager for SkyCargo Ireland, said: “Supporting the Irish export sector with quick and efficient access to key markets means we are, for example, bringing daily shipments of fresh seafood to Hong Kong and Singapore, and making it available in the best restaurants within 48 hours of being caught, and also transporting Irish fresh foods to supermarkets in Dubai within 24 hours of processing.”

Emirates Sky Cargo

Up to 50 tonnes of cargo can now be carried each day from Dublin to Dubai and onwards across Emirates’ global network

The SkyCargo team in Ireland are based in a new purpose-built facility at Dublin Airport which provides a range of temperature-controlled zones for the wide variety of products it handles. The new facility meets the criteria laid down by the Irish Aviation Authority and international authorities for the safe and secure handling of air cargo. The facility is also GDP (General Distribution Practise) compliant, a key requirement for the handling of pharmaceuticals for export to the world. This means that SkyCargo has the “finest service in the sky is supported by the finest facilities and professional staff on the ground,” Mr Meagher added.

Apart from SkyCargo team and the office and ground services staff in Dublin over 500 Irish staff are based with the airline in Dubai including flight and cabin crew.

Emirates impact on the European economy

Emirates in conjunction with Frontier Economics, a leading European consultancy released the results of a socio-economic impact study that measures Emirates’ contribution to the European economy earlier in the year. The study estimates that Emirates’ operations, including the catalytic impact of the 220 unique connections it offers, supported 85,100 jobs across the EU in 2013/14, equivalent to €6.8 billion GDP of the total EU GDP. In addition, Emirates’ Airbus A380 deliveries for the same period supported 41,000 jobs, equivalent to €3.4 billion GDP. Emirates relationship with Europe goes back to 1987 when they first started flying from Dubai to London Gatwick and this has grown to over 350 passenger flights a week to Europe.

The study also concluded that Emirates’ presence in 28 European cities significantly contributes to regional development, especially in non-hub markets that have traditionally been overlooked by other carriers. The Frontier analysis, which covered 28 cities served by Emirates in 16 EU Member States, identified a total of 220 routes from Europe that are unique to Emirates. 21 of these are non-stop connections from European cities to Dubai, and the remaining 199 routes are unique one-stop connections, via Dubai. Using any other airline or alliance on these unique routes would require at least one more additional stop.

Airbus also estimates that Emirates’ A380 orders support the employment of 41,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in Europe. About 70% of these jobs are split equally between France and Germany, with the UK having 17% and the remaining 5,000 jobs in Spain. These are high-skilled jobs and impact a high-value supply chain, creating a significant multiplier effect in countries where Airbus has aircraft production facilities.

Emirates cabin crew now 20,000 strong

Emirates celebrated a significant milestone in its employee history in April, when its cabin crew numbers exceeded 20,000, for the first time. Emirates cabin crew are a vibrant group that comprises over 135 nationalities and speak over 55 languages. The growth of the cabin crew team has been steadily increasing in line with the arrival of new aircraft, and new routes being added to the network. This year, Emirates expects to hire over 5,000 new cabin crew and the company offers its crew diverse future prospects within a truly global company. There are many opportunities for progression within the airline as well as being promoted through the cabin crew ranks. Many crew progress from Economy Class to Business Class in less than 18 months and others who stay on have become Pursers or cabin crew leaders onboard in around five to six years. Cabin crew are offered an entire employment package, which includes free of charge high standard, shared accommodation in Dubai, free accommodation utilities such as water and electricity, free transport to/from work, free insurance, medical and dental cover, as well as exclusive discounts on shopping and leisure activities in Dubai. For many of Emirates’ cabin crew team, the company’s attractive concessional travel benefits for themselves as well as their families and friends, is a big boon – particularly as Emirates’ growing global network offer many travel opportunities to over 140 destinations across six continents.

Emirates cabin crew

Emirates now employs over 20,000 from 135 countries

Emirates’ cabin crew often come from other professions and have opportunities to move to other departments as well. From accountants, economists, medics, and musicians for example, Emirates’ cabin crew community brings together diverse skills and different perspectives to the company.

Despite its international character, the Emirates Group is implementing a three-phased Emiratisation strategy. This national recruitment strategy, which is currently in its third phase, was implemented two years ago to ensure that UAE Nationals are well-placed in a variety of positions to support the growth of Emirates airlines and dnata, the global air services provider which today has operations in 38 countries on five continents. The Group has set an Emiratisation target to recruit and retain UAE Nationals and is offering a range of career opportunities and scholarships to ensure its new recruits are well equipped for a dynamic career – whether with Emirates, dnata, or in a Group-wide business unit such as Human Resources, IT, Procurement, Facilities Management, and Marketing.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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