Experiential / Reality-based Learning / April 1, 2010

Smith Students Travel to the UAE for Global Immersion Course

The global airline industry is in the midst of a dramatic restructuring that involves many airlines merging, cutting services and eliminating jobs. But during a recent Global Immersion course in the United Arab Emirates, a Smith School student delegation learned about an unconventional management approach being taken by Emirates Airlines.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airlines, explained to students that Emirates is bucking the industry slump by building a positive workplace culture. This culture fosters commitment to high quality service and meticulous planning that enables Emirates to quickly seize new opportunities whenever they arise. “Our model is to operate a high quality airline and brand, flying a fuel-efficient fleet, offering travelers value across a global network through our hub,” Mr. Clark said. “We are blessed at being able to fly non-stop to just about any point in the world from our home,” Clark added.

With a fleet of 145 wide-bodied aircraft, and a new plane arriving roughly every four weeks, Emirates currently flies to 101 destinations in six continents. In contrast to today's modern fleet, Emirates started in 1985 with two planes that they leased from a Pakistani airline. Emirates was seeded with $10 million from the Dubai government. Since the first investment, the carrier has received no additional financial assistance from the government of Dubai.

The company has grown at more than 20 percent a year since inception. Clark is part of the original management team that created Emirates Airline in 1985. He's spent the last 20 years, along with Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, turning the carrier into a giant now capable of challenging the world's biggest airlines. Clark is considered one of the most influential figures in the airline industry and he has played a key role in making Emirates one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, while earning more than 400 international awards for excellence.

The visit to Emirates was particularly relevant for Smith students as the airline industry is one of the most examined industries in business schools. Students gained unique access to senior level management at Emirates, including Divisional Senior Vice President of Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, Iain Lachlan, who provided a tour of the Emirates Engineering Center. This center is one of the most technologically advanced aircraft maintenance and engine test facilities and the largest A380 maintenance facility in the world. The visit also included touring an A380, the world’s only twin-deck, two-aisle airliner. Emirates was the first airline to place an order for the A380, currently operating eight A380s, and has an order in for 54 more A380 aircrafts. In total Emirates currently has orders worth over US$ 58 billion for 170 of the latest aircrafts.

“The Emirates approach is about quickly seizing opportunities and solving problems as they arise,” says Mark Wellman, Tyser Teaching Fellow in the management and organization department, who led the student trip. “The Emirates personnel we met during our visit were extremely impressive. We learned more about running an effective airline during our one day at Emirates than we would learn reading a textbook for an entire year,” said Joey Maertens, an undergraduate student who participated in the spring break global immersion course.

With business visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi the delegation of 41 students gained first hand knowledge about the transformation of the UAE to a growing economic superpower that is an important player in regional and international affairs. Additional visits included Nakheel, DP World, Dubal, Ten Sports, Nasdaq Dubai, Dubai International Finance Center, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, and Northrop Grumman.

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Greg Muraski
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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