Emirates strengthens Indian routes and introduces first class
Emirates airline has announced two enhancements to its service to the Indian market, in Kolkata.
Commencing 29 March the airline will add a 13th weekly flight between the West Bengal capital and its home and hub in Dubai. Operating on Wednesdays, flights will depart Dubai International Airport and arrive at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.
The inbound service offers convenient connections with several regions within Emirates’ network, including many of the 37 European, 17 Middle Eastern and 20 African cities Emirates serves. With this additional service, Emirates will operate 186 weekly flights across its network of 10 Indian destinations.
Also on 29 March, Emirates will start to operate a larger Boeing 777-200ER on the route as flight numbers EK 570 and EK 571, which will offer Emirates’ renowned First Class service. The Boeing is an up-gauge from the existing A330-200, with capacity for 274 passengers; 220 in Economy Class, 42 in Business Class and 12 First Class. Emirates will be the only airline operating a First Class cabin to the city.
The new service and up-gauge will represent a capacity increase of 250 seats in each direction per week.
Ahmed Khoory, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations for West Asia and Indian Ocean, said: “Emirates commenced flights to Kolkata back in 2006, the seventh city we launched flights to. Since then we have flown over 1.6 million people and 55,260 tonnes of cargo on this popular route. On the milestone of completing nine successful years of operations to Kolkata, we are happy to offer an extra weekly flight to passengers flying to the city which not only increases their choice of flight times but also introduces increased capacity and a First Class cabin for our premium customers”, said.
“The additional flight and increased capacity also means strengthening of travel options available not just to Kolkata, but the entire east and north-east India region. We hope this capacity addition will help connect even more people to the market, and facilitate greater trade to the region and its economy”.
For more information on Emirates, visitwww.emirates.com
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector