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Q&A with Amer Khan Country Manager Etihad Airways

Q&A with Amer Khan Country Manager Etihad Airways

Country Manager Etihad Airways, Amer Khan, discusses Etihad’s great success in Pakistan as a leading commercial airline. He highlights the airline’s commitment to provide the finest travel experience to its customers, through constant quality assurance and the introduction of attractive traveling packages. Pakistan is one of the top global markets for the airline, he claims, and remains an integral part of the airline’s expansion plans.

He talks to Blue Chip about Etihad’s stronghold in Pakistan.

Etihad was launched in 2003, and for the past two years running, has won the award for being the World’s Leading Airline. What would you say are the factors behind Etihad’s rapid rise to success in a considerably short time?

Amer Khan: I believe success to be a journey, not a destination. Therefore, at Etihad, we consequently strive to remain the best airline. Being the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, our management team and crew are thoroughly committed to deliver the very best travel experience in the aviation industry. Etihad’s secret to success is the ability to understand the dynamic needs of the travelers and responding to them preemptively. By April 2012, Etihad will be flying to over 72 destinations across the world with above 18 million travelers, in just 8 years of its inception – that in itself is a major achievement for any commercial airline.

Etihad provides unmatched traveling experiences to the global travelers, along with a vast network of destinations for the people living in Pakistan .We have achieved tremendous growth in our route network, aircraft fleet, passenger figures and number of employees. This is what makes us the World’s Leading Airline. Other than that, Etihad has the honour of achieving several other global awards, the recent one being the “Best Airline in the World” award.

How does Etihad view Pakistan as a market, compared to the other countries in the region? And what sets it apart from other leading international airlines operating in Pakistan?

AK: Pakistan and UAE enjoy close ties, which inspires us to closely focus on the airline’s operations in Pakistan and create valuable and convenient services for Pakistani travelers.  Since the launch of Etihad Airways, Pakistan has been a key market for the airline and is currently one of the top ten markets in our global network.

The importance of the Pakistani market for Etihad is evident, because it is the only international airline which offers equal reach for people living all the major cities of Pakistan. Daily flights are operated from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, along with twice weekly flights from Peshawar.

In addition to our offices located in the cities we fly to, for the ease and comfort of the Pakistani travelers, we have also located our offices in six other key cities across Pakistan – namely Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan, Mirpur and Kharian. Even our loyalty program, Etihad Guest, is tailored for the local market with partners like Bank Al-Falah, whose customers can turn their points into Etihad Guest miles, and even donate their Miles to local charity partners like Development in Literacy (DIL). Etihad also offers the leisurely Etihad coach service in Pakistan between Lahore Airport and the cities of Faisalabad and Sialkot.

Commercial aviation in Pakistan has been through some turbulent times recently, with a major plane crash and management issues. What are your views on Pakistan’s aviation industry?

AK: I have come to learn that our aviation sector has a lot of growth opportunities for premium quality airline services like Etihad. Individual and business travelers across Pakistan are looking for excellent travel solutions, and we are glad to be one of the front-runners providing them with top-quality service. Travelers from Pakistan are showing an increasingly healthy trend towards traveling abroad for holidays. The UAE is a highly preferred tourism and business destination for the Pakistani traveler. Responding to this trend, Etihad offers several attractive travel packages with unmatched leisure and tourism facilities and features in Abu Dhabi and other cities of the UAE.

The Civil Aviation Authority is proactively ensuring a competitive business environment for commercial airlines in Pakistan and the right opportunities being available for aggressive growth. Both Etihad and I, personally, have always received a great amount of support from this body.

What is Etihad’s contribution to the corporate sector in Pakistan?

AK: Etihad is always eager to support the corporate sector in Pakistan and for this purpose, in 2010, launched a programme called the Etihad BusinessConnect. The programme is designed to help small to medium sized enterprises (SME) get the most value from their travel budget, when flying with the airline.

Once registered with BusinessConnect, a company benefits from the following exclusive features:

The business will earn 60 percent of all Diamond First and Pearl Business class and 30 percent of all Coral Economy class miles earned by employees, in addition to individual employees receiving their normal mileage accrual; BusinessConnect members can redeem their miles for free flights, upgrades and can choose from over 1600 rewards. All the miles earned are added together to enable travelers to earn rewards faster.

I would suggest you personally visit and check out the details of this excellent programme

 You have worked with American Airlines and South African Airways prior to joining Etihad. How has your experience differed in each of these airlines?

AK: MashaAllah, I consider myself blessed in this regard. I have had great learning and development opportunities with all my past employers!

What challenges do you face presently as Country Manager for Etihad Airways in Pakistan?

AK: With its exceedingly important geographic location, a vast expatriate population segment, and extensive socio-economic relations across the world, Pakistan surely presents some fabulous opportunities and potential for the airline industry as a whole, and particularly for young airlines like Etihad. The obvious geo-political instability of this entire region definitely creates some hurdles and poses a few challenges. However, Etihad’s diverse pool of expertise, which includes the operational support available from our Head Office in Abu Dhabi, and the excellent team of professionals I work with in Pakistan has made the task-setting job easier.

Having reported a rise in revenue for 2010, does Etihad have further plans for expansion in the Pakistani market?

AK: Expansion is essential to the success of every organization, the airline industry being no exception. Our revenues are merely a token of appreciation from our valued customers. We continue to adopt the culture, whereby we can offer better services and travel destinations to our customers. Currently, for the Pakistani market, Etihad is focusing over establishing more conducive routes, hereby strengthening its services and strategic relationships. Extending its network globally, Etihad is offering its guests increased travel options. We have already announced flights to (Shanghai and Chengdu) China, Maldives, (Dusseldorf) Germany and Seychelles. Furthermore, a few other exciting destinations will be opening up within the next 6 months.

What drew you to a career in aviation?

AK: This is a very exciting career that has enabled me to reduce distances between different communities of the world and increase accessibility of various regions across the globe. It demands a high level of co-ordination between nations and the management personnel involved requires a high degree of competence, presence of mind and perseverance. During my official and unofficial travels, I have been fortunate enough to see the world and come across some truly fascinating experiences. This global exposure helps me perform even better and nurtures excellence.

Having lived and travelled all over the world, what is your favourite holiday destination?

AK: Abu Dhabi – and not just because it is Etihad’s home-base – but due to it being a diverse, culturally rich and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. You see, Abu Dhabi, as the capital of UAE, is a very large metropolitan city and there are a number of exciting projects going on. The Yas Marine Island has recently launched the Yas Marina Circuit and the world’s biggest indoor theme park – the Ferrari World.

A number of cultural and heritage projects are also in the pipeline in Abu Dhabi, including the anticipated opening of the Louvre and Guggenheim. These recent happenings indicate a great desire to become the ultimate leisure destination and a corporate financial hub in the Middle East, which makes Abu Dhabi my favourite holiday spot in the world.

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