UAE carriers digital drive: Emirates announces Apple Watch app; Etihad’s tie-up with Facebook

Etihad Airways yesterday announced a new partnership with Facebook and Emirates Airline said it has developed a dedicated app for the soon-to- be-launched Apple Watch, as the UAE’s carriers increasingly turn to digital platforms to give them the edge on the competition.

This month Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa launched a flurry of flight deals amid fierce rivalry between regional, European and North American carriers.

On Sunday, Etihad unveiled a marketing campaign featuring Nicole Kidman as a brand ambassador – the Australian actress has more than 10 million “likes” on Facebook.

The Abu Dhabi carrier has been using the social media site as a marketing tool for more than a year and in the past 18 months has grown its digital marketing department from a single employee to a 22-strong team.

Liz Selby, the head of social media for Etihad, said that a closer collaboration with Facebook would “drive increased market share and commercial returns”.

“People expect communication to be personal, relevant and mobile,” she said.

The value of the 12-month rolling contract is “in the top echelons of investment with regard to airlines and Facebook partnerships,” said Terry Kane, head of travel, auto, telco and financial services, Facebook, Middle East & North Africa.

Facebook has a similar tie- up with major airlines in most countries.

Emirates said yesterday its Apple Watch app will be available from April 24, the date when the device is expected to go on sale, supporting English, French and German. The app is an extension of the Emirates iPhone app which provides live flight status updates and baggage collection details. Emirates said it would be the first airline in the Middle East and African region to offer an Apple Watch app.

Alex Knigge, senior vice president for digital at Emirates said the app was developed to give a more “personal” experience to passengers.

Analysts at Oppenheimer & Co in New York forecast that global sales of the Apple Watch this year will reach 15 million units, helped by demand in China.

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