Tim Clark and Emirates Airlines get Proactive with a Three Pronged Counter-Attack

Emirates Airlines, headed by Tim Clark, are taking the role of a modern-day Rocky Balboa, climbing against all odds to the top of their business and getting attacked for it. Tim Clark’s proactive response is a relative first for a GCC company. As other regional companies grow globally they too will be faced with aging, inefficient behemoths that will try to spin doctor them out of their markets. These nascent GCC companies could learn a thing or two from Mr Clark and Emirates Airlines.

Wild unsubstantiated allegations against the GCC and playing to the xenophobic tendencies of certain groups are nothing new. What is completely new is the response. The modus operandi so far has been for the victims of such spin doctoring to meekly withdraw and try to protect their interests via back channels.

Tim Clark and Emirates decided to fight fire with fire and just as they have dominated the global long haul airline industry they look set to dominate this public debate.

The first decision that Emirates Airlines made that was novel for the region was to take a proactive approach. Rather than remaining silent in the face of a coordinated PR onslaught and instead of seeking to resolve issues via diplomatic back channels they responded to the open and public debate with an open and public response.

The second decision was to meet the aggressiveness of their attackers with a proportional level of aggressiveness in their response. For far too long GCC companies with global ambitions would assume that their value system would be respected by the global competitors. That clearly did not work.

If someone attacks you viciously they are not going to see any restraint on your part as a sign of goodwill but as a sign of weakness. When a bear is wounded it loses its mind and must be put down. The same is true of corporate relics that no longer have a raison d’être.

Finally Tim Clark and Emirates Airlines broke the taboo of sharing commercial information in public, especially about a government related company. The levels of transparency for a privately held company have been breathtaking.

The genius of the latter decision is that the detractors of Emirates Airlines clearly expected a continuation of the historical GCC preference for privacy. They have completely missed the trends over the last years of increasing transparency as government related entities one after the other voluntarily publish their financials.

My main aim in this article is to applaud Tim Clark and Emirates Airlines for their bold decision to break from local custom and launch a spirited defence of their rights. But I cannot ignore the absurdity of the three US airlines believing that the difference in service levels between Emirates and themselves is due to any kind of subsidy. The difference can’t even be explained by pointing at the crew and employees of the US airlines.

The massive difference in quality of service between Emirates Airlines and the three US airlines can only be explained by catastrophic strategic mistakes made by the American companies. What is happening is not any illegal or unethical behaviour. It is free market capitalism, culling the old and the sick.