Middle East • DXB

Brand DXB

is born

“The Sage wisdom
Wherever you tread, your footsteps bud into great actions
And whatever ideas you say… they take to the sky and spread their wings”

– From ‘The Sage wisdom’ by Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (‘Fazza’)

When Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths revealed Dubai International Airport’s rebranding as DXB at a spectacular launch in mid-February, he described the move as a “fresh direction to transform DXB into the airport of the future, one that is led by a more customer-centric approach, that incorporates the hospitality, excitement, warmth and true spirit of Dubai.” Martin Moodie was present at the launch and spoke to Griffiths soon afterwards about what that customer-centric approach would involve.

Dubai Airports unveiled this dynamic LED signage at Terminal 3 the day after the DXB brand launch. CEO Paul Griffiths (centre), Deputy CEO HE Jamal Al Hai (right) and Executive Vice President – Commercial Eugene Barry showcased the installation. It will play video content promoting campaigns lined up at DXB to mark festivals; together with product and service announcements, and special events happening in the city.

Click on the icon above to hear Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths tell Martin Moodie about what is involved in winning “the hearts and minds” of DXB consumers.

Martin Moodie: As you announced DXB, it was notable that you spoke about “customers” and “travellers” as opposed to passengers. This is a huge rebranding and new identity, but that’s only part of it, isn’t it?

Paul Griffiths: That’s right. When you launch a new brand, you’re making a promise that you then absolutely have to deliver on. The 100,000 employees we have associated with the airport really have to come onboard with this idea that the customer is the person who pays all of our wages, and therefore we have to treat them very, very seriously.

And I subscribe to the fact that the airport’s experience should not be a collection of loosely compatible processes, but we have to look at this as a holistic experience that takes care of our customers on an individual basis.

So, we’re not in the infrastructure or operations or even the travel retail business. We are actually in the hospitality business, and we have to take a leaf out of the book of a lot of other organisations that have really put customer service at the top.

Article continues below

“We can start to break those silos down and reinvent the entire customer experience around a proposition that is really fit for the 21st century.”

If you do concentrate on taking the customer service experience to a new level, then there’s so much that falls in behind that. It means we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to invest in new technology, new processes, and to disaggregate and rebuild the entire airport experience.

This is about science, technology, and new regard for hospitality being incredibly important, as well as all the traditional things like the airside and terminal operations being important.

You’ll start to see this evidence come through. We are going to have new concepts in terms of our food and bar offers. We’re going to embrace new opportunities with restaurant provisions that will be quite unusual, and obviously the retail offer will evolve. We’re going to be looking at those that do this best not just in the aviation sector, but across the whole of the related industries.

Royal approval: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (left) and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, celebrate the new identity in front of local and international media.

Airports have always been full of silos, operational versus commercial versus governmental, and even silos within silos commercially speaking. You seem to be saying ‘let’s get beyond that because the consumer doesn’t identify or doesn’t want to know about silos’. This new strategy just sees your airport as that holistic entity.

One of the biggest disappointments in the aviation industry today is the fact there is a huge amount of technology, but as you rightly say, it’s deployed in silos. And the difficulty is those silos are vertical silos and what we expect our customers to do is travel horizontally across those silos.

So the impact is a bit like bumping a shopping trolley across a load of railway tracks. It’s not good customer service to behave in silos, so we have to start bringing people along this particular journey of putting the customer in the middle. And if we can do that with an aspirational brand with a mission and a strategy that gets everyone onboard, then we can start to break those silos down and reinvent the entire customer experience around a proposition that is really fit for the 21st century. That’s what we’re really trying to do.

As dusk settles over Dubai, Paul Griffiths (below) tells guests: “We want every single person who comes through our doors every day to take away a remarkable experience. Something that they will remember – that will touch their lives. Something that will not just win over their minds, but will win their hearts as well.“

What does it say that the ruler of the country, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was here and very imbued and involved in the whole process? I watched him, and he was, I think, genuinely excited about what he was seeing. It’s a manifestation of how he sees an airport and how he sees the development of the country. It must be a big statement of support for you, too?

Yes, I think it was a massive endorsement that we had Dubai’s ruler present. We had Sheikh Ahmed [bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Airports; President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority; CEO and Chairman of Emirates Group] there, the ruler’s uncle, and of course, we had Sheikh Hamdan [Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the ruler’s son] too, so we had three generations of the ruling family present at our event. I think that’s a massive statement about the importance that aviation plays here in Dubai. And it’s a unique situation where a nation has got behind its aviation sector and supports it in the way it does, and it’s been wholly consistent for more than 60 years in that.

I find that when I talk to colleagues across the globe and tell them the miracle of the Dubai aviation story and the way it actually functions, they don’t really believe it. I am so privileged to be part of it.

But of course, there is another side to that. We’ve just made a huge promise to deliver a whole new generation of customer service experiences at our airports in front of the ruler of our country here, and that, I think, is going to weigh quite heavily on my shoulders and the shoulders of lots of my people. But we will take that responsibility very seriously and now we absolutely have to deliver.

The majesty of DXB is captured in this breathtaking image, anchored by the new identity in the centre.

The Moodie Davitt Report • The Online Magazine • March 2019