Travel

Getting to Know Etihad Airways’ General Manager for Malaysia

eDSC_0688 - Dave Walsh

Getting comfortable as an expat in Kuala Lumpur was a surprising ease for Etihad Airways’ General Manager for Malaysia, Irishman Dave Walsh. Editor Chad Merchant sat down with him and discovered connectivity to be a common theme for both his personal and professional pursuits.

For some expats, Malaysia is just one of a carousel of overseas postings, while for others, it’s their first experience living abroad. Both scenarios come with their own challenges, but we met one expat – whose posting in Kuala Lumpur falls somewhere between these two extremes – who, along with his family, found adapting to life in the Malaysian capital to be easier than expected. We talked to Dublin native Dave Walsh, whose responsibilities with Etihad Airways brought him to Malaysia, and got his take on living in KL and doing business here as the General Manager for Malaysia for Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based airline that is on an amazing upward trajectory these days.

Dave, how long have you been based in KL? Is this your first overseas posting?
It’s been just about 18 months now. Malaysia is actually the first long-term overseas posting for my family and me, though there was a short five-month assignment in Cairo with my former company. When I told my family we might be relocating, it was met with surprise and excitement, even though they didn’t really know much about Malaysia at the time.

How has everyone adapted? What are some of the things you like and dislike about living here so far?
The kids are now 11 and 8, and they are doing fine. My wife, Michelle, has really taken to life here in KL, which was certainly a bigger change for her than it was for me, since I was with Etihad already when we moved here, and had plenty to do from day one. We have found the people here to be so welcoming and friendly. And really, not just the locals, but the other expats, too. There’s a great sense of connectivity and community with people here – very easy to make connections, and we like that. The expats we’ve met are really in the same boat we are, so everyone seems to look out for each other, which made our first few weeks here much easier. We were invited to open houses, dinners, events… the social opportunities here far exceed those we had back home in Ireland.

The accessibility here is another plus point. It’s so easy to hop on a plane and go to so many places that, back home, are considered exotic and remote. Even a long weekend down in Sydney, which from Ireland is very far away, is an easy option here. Malaysia’s location is a huge benefit.

Etihad Airways’ home city is Abu Dhabi in the UAE. For expats who haven’t been there, what would you tell them? Is it a good leisure travel destination?
I would definitely recommend they visit. Abu Dhabi is a terrific destination, and with an array of new attractions such as Ferrari World, world-class golf, dining, and shopping, a racing circuit, desert safaris, and Yas Waterworld, which is probably the most amazing waterpark in the whole of the Middle East, there is plenty to do and see. They’re also building a new airport, which should be ready in a couple of years. Like KL, Abu Dhabi benefits from a good, central location, so not only is it a great destination for holidays, it’s a terrific hub for connections to other cities.

Can you elaborate on that a bit more?
Well, when making travel arrangements involving layovers, people always look at the transit time. You don’t want to be rushing for your next flight, but of course you don’t want to sit in the airport for half a day, either. What Etihad has done to make Abu Dhabi an even more appealing hub is ensure that virtually all the connections come with a layover time of just two to three hours, which is pretty ideal. And there are two flights to Abu Dhabi every day from KL, so it’s easy to get to almost any destination in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and North America. And with our strengthening codeshare ties with Malaysia Airlines, this ease of connectivity benefits travellers throughout Malaysia.

That connectivity seems to be a key part of Etihad’s philosophy.
It really is. With our Etihad Airways Partners programme, for example, it’s all about enhancing what’s offered to travellers – a wider choice of destinations, particularly in Europe, more daily flights to choose from, and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, including airport lounges.

In the case of Malaysia, we work with our partner Jet Airways, leasing one of their aircraft to enable us to offer our guests the convenience of a double-daily service between KL and Abu Dhabi. Staffed by our cabin crew and boasting Etihad Airways’ own catering and inflight entertainment, in terms of the service elements, it’s just like being on one of our own aircraft.

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In your role, how do you see Etihad’s future specifically here in Malaysia?
We’ll notch our eighth anniversary in Malaysia later this year, and have gone from 4x/week flights to Abu Dhabi to daily to 2x/daily now. We have new aircraft, new partners, and offer new choices. I’d say Etihad’s future in Malaysia is a good one, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.

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Source: The Expat June magazine 2015

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