"Emirates and Etihad are top airlines in customer survey"

Or so the headline says in a press release which seems to have found its way into a number of travel trade publications. The results of the survey by Ethos Consultancy were:

Emirates 92.3%

Etihad 91.5%

Swiss Air 86.6%

British Airways 84.3%

Virgin 79.8%

Air France 72.3%

Qatar 71.5%

Those publications that have printed the story have done so without comment but, if the survey is to have any credibility at all, it might be worth pointing out the following:

1/ The report refers to an airline called “Swiss Air”. If they do not even know the proper name of one of the airlines they are supposed to be measuring, one wonders just how comprehensive the survey has been or, indeed, how much the consultants know about the airline business.

2/ The survey is based on just “fourteen flight experiences”. We don’t claim to be experts in measuring customer satisfaction but this looks an incredibly small number.

3/ There is no information about who commissioned and paid for this report.

4/ It is interesting to note that Ethos Consultancy is based in Dubai. No doubt it is just a coincidence that their top-rated airline is based in Dubai and the second-best (by a waver-thin margin) is based in Dubai’s friendly neighbour, Abu Dhabi.

5/ Many other surveys show Qatar as one of the best-performing airlines in the world, frequently edging out Emirates and Etihad. Qatar is clearly a major threat to both airlines. In this survey it comes bottom.

Etihad expands at Dublin

Etihad Airways has just announced an increase from daily to ten a week on its Abu Dhabi-Dublin service. Given the dire state of the Irish economy this is both surprising and positive news. James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ CEO, has been reported as saying that “Dublin has been one of our most successful ever destination launches, with more than 300,000 people flying on these services since launch and an average seat factor of 80%”.  This expansion demonstrates the airline’s confidence in the market – It’s even planning to open a dedicated business lounge at the airport in 2010.

Selective Memories on Dubai

Almost every newspaper has been running wise editorials about Dubai’s problems saying that the crisis was foreseeable. As The Sunday Times sagely wrote in its editorial yesterday, “Even casual observers could see this was a boom built on sand.”

The problem is, I cannot remember any of these newspapers warning about Dubai’s excesses at the time. What I can remember is acres of newspaper devoted to PR puffs for tourism and property purchase in Dubai. Did the clever people who write the editorials actually tell their colleagues on the Property and Travel sections that they were helping to flog something that “everyone knew” was dodgy?

Inside Traveller has always warned against property purchase in the UAE, not least because of the complicated legal structure of such purchases. Anyone purchasing an apartment from one of the government-owned or linked companies should also have asked themselves what chance they would have had in a local court had they wished to sue the developer.

Meanwhile, there is bound to be more speculation about the future ownership of Emirates. As one of the few apparently successful assets of Dubai, it has been assumed that Abu Dhabi would want to take control of the airline in exchange for rescuing some of the other businesses. Abu Dhabi’s own airline, Etihad, has already taken over the lead from Emirates in terms of customer service and quality whilst Emirates’ reputation has been going downhill gently for some time. Eitihad openly refer to themselves as “the airline of the UAE”. It could be that Etihad do not really want Emirates anyway – though their government might wish to take some secret holding as a security for other loans. You can be sure that, whatever the legal ownership of Emirates, they will not be doing anything to upset their neighbour for a very long time.