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CNBC Transcript: Interview with HH Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum, Emirates Group CEO and Chairman


Following are excerpts from the transcript of a CNBC interview by Hadley Gamble and HH Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum, Emirates Group CEO and Chairman

Sheikh Ahmed, thank you so much for joining CNBC. I want to ask you about Emirates, 30 years on – how far have you come?

Oh if you look at it mmmm. We are doing excellent I would say. You know I think we achieved his Highness' vision for the Dubai, not only for 2020, but also we have to carry on to 2050 and that will be big plan for the air for that and the Maktoum International expanding, even Dubai international and do a lot of thing and I think Emirates this year is carrying more than 50 mn people on it's plane, having the biggest number in terms of A380s, more than 65 aircraft in the fleet, more than 150 Boeing 777s and so on and on our book order there's 246 aircraft to come.

Some big numbers there, talk to me about your mandate for the airline and for Tim Clark as well.

Yeah, I think we also see that we're trying to connect Dubai to more cities, you know we're always finding new business around you. I think we're, as everybody knows, as often as next year be starting to fly to Panama. Sort of a lot of people think, why Panama? Why you flying all the way there, we have a number of keen airports that they want us to fly to central America and I think this is something you will see in the very near future and also other points around the globe, we cannot say all of them, you know, we also have to watch our competitors.

You wear many hats in your position. Talk to me a little bit about the regional unrest is impacting not just Emirates and other airlines in the region, but also your business as a whole.

I always say this, I say the world will never be free of the way you want it to be, safe. Safe environment, you know. You have to think that the things that can happen, you have to learn exactly what you can do. But if you said, can you plan it 100% there is nothing. Even with the simple things a lot of people know that we buy fuel, you know use it for our airline and people say, oh why you don't hedge, what hedge at what price? You know what is the right price would be, is it a hundred? Is it 50 dollars, 30 dollars? You know it is all… Currencies exchange you know, we are a dollar based company, we are all over the world so I have a basket of currencies that I sell in, you know, so I, usually coming back and transferring all that money back to dollars. It's a lot of money and this is actually some of the things that will go, so. So we hope that the region will be safer. I think, thank god that the UAE and this part of the world is very safe and we hope, thanks to all our security people and also to our leaders also.

Speaking of that security, you run the aviation authority as well. What do you guys think specifically that makes air travel more safe?

Yeah, I've been asked today what you going to do. I think, of course it should be safe all the time. You cannot take any chances. You know the guys that want to do, cause a problem, they are ahead of you so if you have always to think in the way they think. What could be the possibility that they are thinking when it comes to and they slip things to go into a bag and somebody through the airport so it's got to be 100% and the same issue, a lot of people think the airline they don't deal with it, we do deal with it. But we don't necessarily, have to, every time we do something that we have to tell the world or we doing this and that. You know we have our security department, the people who work there, and they put a lot of effort and I must say that a lot of governments also thank us, you know to stop many people from boarding the aircraft to going to certain countries, for what ever reason. It could be they're just going there to be errr getting the citizenship for that country.

Shifting gears a bit, when you look at the pushback that you've had, not just from European carriers, but US carriers as well, you guys have taken it on with humour, you've got these new ads coming out with Jennifer Aniston for eg. What's behind that move?

It must be fun, you know, I am sure there are a lot of people like it but this is the way we we we show our people what we have, or what kind of service that we are offering on board, or in that area, and this what I tell a lot of people when it comes to a lot of the products that we offer on Emirates, it's not only what you see on board of the aircraft. On Emirates aircraft. We could be talking about the entertainment system, you know the luxury in the seat, toilets, shower, whatever, but also on the ground, when you take that the Dubai airport is a beautiful facility. For emirates' passengers and also abroad, if you board in the, specially if you are in the first two cabins of the aircraft, you go into the VIP lounge of emirates and all over the world today, or whatever we can make one you will see us there and a facility, I even sometimes wonder with the amount of food there you know you see people going there and eating there and they can eat on board and sometimes some people say this is an extra cost, why are you do it. But this is part of also, finding a lot of passengers who be loyal to the airline because of the excellent service that we provi…that we provide.

And in terms of Emirates today and 30 years from now, what's your vision for the airline? Sheikh Mohammed saying that he wants Dubai to be the aviation and the transport hub of the world. What happens next?

Yeah I think his highness has worked a lot in terms of bringing more and more people and I remember 20 years back when he said, Ahmed see all of those people going across the gulf without really landing and we have to make sure I want to see them in Dubai airport, I said ok your highness, lets put something together. So I went to him and I said, yeah but we need, 1,2,3,4,5. And he said, why is that and I said we need hotels on the beach. We need shopping malls, We need amusment parks, we need what ever, roads, everything and you see that was part of the plan – it didn't just happen like that, so his highness was very much focused to what exactly he wanted to do and I think if you get the chance and ask him that question I am sure he'd told you that somebody before he start really trying to attract more and more tourist to come. A lot of people have said your highness, I think you're not in the right place to do something. You are not like a lot of places where they have a lot of things to attract people. So he took it as a challenge and he said, no I will do it. And yet you see today you know, I mean Dubai International Airport has more than 80 mn passengers or people who be through that airport and I think you will see this number and the growth is going up and up again.

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