Emirates Airline Company’s Operation Management


“Operations Management focuses on the effective management of resources and activities that produce or deliver the goods and services of any business” (Lewis, 2003, p. 1). This assertion was made by Lewis (2003) when he was explaining the design and management of business processes in the organization. Many operations have relied on operations management to add value to their goods and services. This realignment of business processes is not a recent phenomenon.

The first organizations to adopt operations management did so, after the Second World War (Lewis, 2003). During this time, operations management was used to optimize military and transport operations to offer radar coverage, anti-aircraft systems, services for the deployment of mines (and similar military activities). Over the years, operations management has evolved (and its functions have changed) to make organizations and companies run more smoothly.

Currently, there are many organizations that employ operations management. Many of these companies have adopted operations management with great success. Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, US Steel, Wal-Mart, Ford and other companies are just a few examples of global companies that have achieved high levels of success with operations management (Lewis, 2003).

However, this study focuses on how Emirates Airline Company has adopted operations management. Emirates airline is the biggest airline company in the Middle East, with an operation base of 2,400 flights every week (Graham, 2010, p. 157). The airline operates in 111 cities and in 62 countries across the world. These countries are spread across six continents. Emirates airline is a member of Emirates Group, which is run and owned by the government of Dubai (Graham, 2010, p. 157). Based on its revenues and passenger numbers, Emirates airline is ranked among the ten best airline companies in the world. Also, based on its safety standards and operational excellence, Emirates airline was ranked the best airline of the year (in February 2011). Other areas of key competencies include excellent customer service and price affordability (Southall Travel Limited, 2011).

Operations Management

Emirates airline has had a strong link with operations management because most of its business processes have been developed from the discipline. Operations management is mainly used in several areas of the company’s operations, including waiting line management, capacity planning, location planning and analysis, process selection and facility (layout design), analytic hierarchy process, and total quality management. Emirates airline uses waiting line management systems because it handles long customer cues (Graham, 2010, p. 157). Its extensive destinations attract many customers and therefore, the organization experiences huge customer numbers. The organization especially experiences waiting line management problems when there are flight delays and when it has to handle huge customer numbers (in popular destinations).

With regards to capacity planning, Emirates airline uses this tool (capacity management) to establish when to buy or dispose new and old aircrafts. The airline also employs capacity planning tools whenever it is faced with changing customer demands. In meeting changing customer needs, the airline employs capacity planning to meet customer needs and achieve customer satisfaction (Graham, 2010, p. 157). Similarly, Emirates airlines adopts the location planning and analysis technique to establish if it needs to expand its operation bases, shut down existing locations or venture into new markets. Emirates airline has especially been faced with many “location selection” dilemmas because it has experienced increases growth over the years. The dilemma has been experienced because increased growth warrants the selection of new markets (locations).

Emirates airline also uses process selection and facilities for developing new products and services (Graham, 2010). Considering the aviation industry is becoming increasingly competitive, Emirates airline has had to be innovative in developing new products and services for its customers. So far, the airline has been able to achieve this goal because it is known to have the best customer service in the gulf market (Southall Travel Limited, 2011). Moreover, its adoption of technology and its inculcation into the service delivery process has made Emirates to be “a first among many”. All these innovations are facilitated by process selection and facility layouts.

The analytic hierarchy process has also been useful for Emirates airline because it has been useful in determining the airline’s service quality. The analytic hierarchy process was especially used as a multi-criteria approach for evaluating Emirate’s service quality standards (viz-a-viz other airlines) (Graham, 2010). In a recent report, it is indicated that, Emirates used the analytical hierarchy process to evaluate its reliability, tangibility, responsiveness and assurance (Graham, 2010).

Lastly, Emirates airline has used total quality management to ensure its products and services meet customer expectations. The company has especially realized that, the aviation industry is a sensitive market because service standards are pivotal in the success of airline companies. Based on such findings, Emirates airline has adopted total quality management to ensure its operations meet customer service standards.

Performance Assessment

Emirates airline has achieved high levels of success through its operation management tools. As noted in previous sections of this study, the airline adopts most of its operation management tools to improve its service delivery standards. For example, the airline uses TQM, analytic hierarchy process, process selection and facilities, capacity planning and wait line management to improve customer services and ensure the customers are fully satisfied. The location planning and analysis tool has been used to make crucial decisions regarding the airline’s geographic presence.

With regards to Emirate’s customer service, Emirates airline is perceived to be a leader of excellent in-flight customer service (in the Middle-East and the rest of the world) (Southall Travel Limited, 2011, p. 10). Emirates airline is also perceived to be a leader among the growing dominance of Middle-Eastern airlines, including Qatar airways and Etihad airways. Graham (2010) explains that, Emirates was the first commercial airline company to introduce an in-house, personalized entertainment system in 1992. This product marked the start of in-flight passenger entertainment for commercial airlines in the world. Its success can be attributed to Emirate’s process selection and facility excellence. This pioneering innovation elevated Emirates airline to be a leader in meeting customer service needs.

In recent times, Emirates is known to exceed customer expectations by launching a series of auxiliary customer services like chauffer services and new cabin services for first, economy and business classes. Emirates airline has consequently won several awards in customer service delivery and product innovation. These awards include,

“Business Traveler Middle East Awards 2009; Best Airline, Business Traveler Middle East Awards 2009; Best First Class, Business Traveler Middle East Awards 2009; Best Frequent Flyer Programme, Pax International Magazine Readership Awards; Outstanding Food Service by a Carrier Middle East 2009, 2010 Skytrax World Airline Awards; World’s Best Airline In-flight Entertainment and 2010 World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Global Summit” (Southall Travel Limited, 2011, p. 10).

From these awards and accolades, we see that, Emirates is perceived to be a leader in offering the best customer services in the aviation industry. Conversely, these awards show that, Emirate’s TQM, analytic hierarchy process, process selection and facilities ventures, capacity planning and wait line management techniques are successful.

With regards to the airline’s location planning and analysis techniques, Emirates has been able to strategically expand its fleet of operations to more than 100 locations (Southall Travel Limited, 2011, p. 1). These locations have facilitated the airline’s expansion plan which occurred over two decades. With such a market presence, Emirates is among the largest airlines in the world. This success shows that, Emirate’s location planning and layout techniques are successful. However, considering the changing market dynamics (informed by competition and changing customer preferences and demands), there are several strategies Emirates can adopt to improve its operations management function.

Suggestions for Improvement

Emirates airlines can improve its operations management processes by adopting the best practice concept. The best practice concept can be applied in different facets of its operation management function, including quality control and capacity planning. It is easy to identify the operational areas where the best practice concept can be applied. These areas include, benchmarking, internal analysis, and reviewing internal and external operational standards (Production and Operations Management Society, 2004). For example, new ISO Standards may be adopted to improve production processes and service delivery standards.

To improve Emirate’s responsiveness to changing customer needs and the changing business environment, Emirates can adopt a flexible strategy formulation framework to meet the changing dynamics of the aviation business. The flexible decision-making framework should influence all aspects of its operations management process. A flexible decision-making framework may be implemented in the procurement processes, location and layout identification processes (and the likes).

Lastly, in improving Emirate’s operations management process, the dilemma of identifying which facet (of operational management) to improve (first) is always a problem. For instance, the dilemma of concentrating on quality issues, as opposed to cost issues has been an age-long dilemma. Studies cited in Production and Operations Management Society (2004) note that, it is vital for airline companies to improve operational management facets before any other component of operational management.

In reference to this assertion, Production and Operations Management Society (2004) explains that, companies which have experienced numerous quality issues have closed down in two years (or less). Therefore, in as much as airline companies strive to reduce their costs (to wade off competitive pressures), Production and Operations Management Society (2004) insists that, it is important to concentrate on improving different facets of operational management, which are focused on quality issues. Furthermore, Production and Operations Management Society (2004) affirms that, “lasting quality improvements clearly precede lasting cost improvements” (p. 132). In this regard, as Emirates continues to diversify its operations by looking for new ways to be the best, it should concentrate on improving its TQM process, analytic hierarchy process, process selection and facilities methodologies, capacity planning and wait line management processes, because these facets of operational management directly influence the airline’s quality standards.


This paper observes that, Emirates airline has been successful in realizing excellent results from its operations management processes. The airline has been a leader in several respects of operation but its most prominent success has been on service delivery processes. Nonetheless, this paper recommends that, Emirates should strive to improve facets of its operational management process that have a strong influence on its quality standards. This focus will ensure the airline always remains successful.


Graham, A. (2010). Aviation and Tourism: Implications for Leisure Travel. New York: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Web.

Lewis, M. (2003). Operations Management: Critical Perspectives on Business and Management. London: Routledge. Web.

Production and Operations Management Society. (2004). Performance Improvement Paths in the Airline Industry. Production and Operations Management, 13(2), pp. 123–134. Web.

Southall Travel Limited. (2011). Emirates. Web.