Many premium brands, in their quest to meet the needs of an increasingly pedantic public, take the highfalutin’ road, elevating their offering to almost godlike status. It’s flattering, but also fleeting. Unless there’s a real-life story to these services, a sincere, tangible, touchable earthiness, it’s all just dress-up.
Emirates has these stories. The airline plays in a very competitive, yet incredibly diverse space. It caters to everyone from tired travellers to high-end customers expecting the best. Recently, the company revamped its spirits offering, introducing new drinks across all its classes. The usual approach to this redesign would be: you pay for what you get. And sure, First Class is a world away from Economy, but behind these decisions is a far more inclusive philosophy to catering, one that runs deep and touches every part of the customer experience. It’s a hands-on, innovative ethos that begins long before take-off. It starts at the source.
And that’s where we’re heading, on a coach winding through the Scottish Highlands. Joost Heymeijer, senior vice-president for catering, explains what’s ahead. “We’re going to get our hands dirty,” he promises. It doesn’t end up being too gritty, but he succinctly captures his company’s approach to sourcing food and beverages. It’s not about conference calls or boardroom banter, it’s about getting down on the ground and forging relationships with select artisans, people whose recipes and products define their country’s style. Because, on an elevated level, Emirates is in the business of connecting cultures, and that’s why it’s imperative for menu items to not only be fresh and local, but also truly representative of the countries it flies between. And to do that, you need partners who feel the same way.
Jim Walker is one such person. He may be the joint managing director of the world’s most loved shortbread brand, with presence in more 100 markets, but he’s as dedicated to local produce as the company was when it first opened as a small store. Aside from the addictively delicious biscuits, it’s thanks to this commitment to quality that Walkers is available on Emirates.
Shortbread is good, but a ramped-up whisky offering is really exciting. The new line-up includes premium expressions from The Dalmore, Jura, Glenfiddich, and Chivas Brothers, each one a very fine dram. But what’s important is that these brands all share Emirates’ vision for a more wholesome, home-grown experience. And, when whisky luminary Colin Scott ushers us into his Royal Salute Vault to share some extra-aged whisky from one of his private barrels, he captures the nature of these relationships: generous, genuine, and jointly committed to the joys of life. It’s a spirit that prevails at all levels, from the chefs and menu designers to the support staff and suppliers. It’s about authenticity.
But you’ll never get a true testimony to a brand’s influence from the company and its partners. It will come from the fans. So when I question a friend who only flies Emirates (he really does), he touches on all the good things the airline wants its customers to feel. Unprompted. For him it comes down to integrity and a superior on-board offering. It’s exactly what any Emirates marketing person wants to hear.
In a vast world that air travel has rendered ridiculously small, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a deep-seated commitment to those little, original touches; to ensuring that the nuances that have, and always will, shape and uphold culture, are being kept alive. And perhaps it’s these compelling stories, this committed attention to detail, that will convince travellers to fly Emirates. For me, it certainly has.