Laurie Berryman
Tom Keighley

Member Article

Bdaily talks to Emirates’ Vice President, Laurie Berryman

What does it take to run an airline in the UK? Bdaily talked to Laurie Berryman, Vice President UK and Ireland for Emirates Airline, to find out.

Laurie is responsible for all sales, marketing and airport operations in the UK. Emirates operate from six airports, and also have a Manchester call centre. Overall, their UK workforce totals 750.

Laurie splits his time between the central London office and the regions. Once a quarter he makes trips to the likes of Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham.

He explained: “First and foremost we provide a service to passengers. But cargo is also very important to us. We have Boeing 777s operating out of most airports now, with big cargo capacities. We’re also seeing some great cargo figures flying out of the regions at the moment. Passengers come first, of course. It’s an 80:20 ratio between.”

Given the current national discourse around airport capacity, and how this capacity is interlinked with economic growth, Laurie suggests there is an appetite for long haul flights from the regions.

He added: “In many ways we’ve changed the way people travel long haul from the regions. Whereas before many people had to go down to Heathrow, or via Amsterdam, more and more people are going via Dubai or other Middle East hubs.

“More people are saying they don’t want to change planes at London anymore, because of the types of hassles they’ve seen in the media. The snow and the fog seem to disrupt Heathrow on a regular basis and I’m a great believer that the regions are important.

“I think people are very proud of their regional airport. It’s something they don’t have in London; people hate Heathrow and Gatwick.

“When I lived in Manchester people really loved their airport and wanted to support it by flying from it.”

While Laurie is confident of the major part that regional airports could play in expanding UK capacity, he also notes that London could also benefit from expansion.

On Air Passenger Duty, Laurie said: “It’s a shame the Government seem to think of the aviation industry as a cash cow, and distort travel.

“There’s no doubt that without that tax their would be more travel going on. And it’s not only tourism that’s hit, it affects business too.

“Distinct evidence shows that people from the new BRIC economies are less likely to fly to the UK because of the tax and visa regulations, which can be particularly harsh.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who do come over - stay for a short time - and then hop over to the continent on the Eurostar or ferry, and then fly home from there. That’s because they’ve got a more welcoming visa regime and but also no tax on the return ticket.”

Laurie agrees that it’s harming regional economies. He points to a PwC report, built on government figures, that suggested removal of Air Passenger Duty would boost the economy.

To analyse Emirates’ own growth, and identify expansion opportunities, the firm have a team to crunch the numbers.

He explained: “The UK is not the only country where we’ve gone into regional airports. For instance, in France we’re quite unique to be flying out of Leon and Nice, as well as Paris. We always look at the opportunities and particularly the fact that people want to get, one-stop, to places like the Far East and Australia.

“It’s always a risk to go into a new market, but actually there’s some pretty good figures out there. We also know from historical data how much of that market we’d expect to get.

“We nearly always grow a market too. Newcastle is a good a good example. We looked into it and there was almost no traffic officially from Newcastle into the Indian Ocean - the likes of Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives.

“People couldn’t do it. But as soon as we put a flight on with connections to those three places, we got traffic straight away. It’s that realisation of pent-up demand.”

The unrest of the Arab Spring has proved challenging for airlines, and Emirates have suspended services from Libya and Syria.

However, the changing regional dynamic has afforded some opportunities for Dubai. Laurie explains: “Some regional companies in the Middle East have actually moved their headquarters to Dubai because they feel that its very stable and safe.”

Laurie is set to speak at the Northern Expo on April 17th at the Newcastle Falcons. He will take the audience through the process of growing Emirates’ routes, with reference to the company’s Newcastle experiences.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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