Meet Rebecca Haining who’s expanding airline reach through relationship building and advocacy

‘You cannot find a more dynamic industry than aviation – it is exciting to be a part of it.”

Rebecca Haining is at the forefront helping the largest airline in the Middle East, Emirates, navigate the complex and ever-changing regulatory environment. She’s the Senior Manager International and Government Affairs at Emirates based in Dubai.

Rebecca, who spent part of her childhood in Hong Kong, is a global Australian with a passion for aviation. She worked at Qantas and had a brief stint with the NSW Government before deciding to move to the UAE to take on the role to help the airline continue to grow by providing strategic advice responding to latest happenings on industry developments, policy and economic changes.

We talk to this global citizen who also has wanderlust in her veins about aviation industry, work challenges and opportunities in the Middle East.  

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.

What was the impetus for you to relocate to Dubai?

I moved to Dubai four and a half years ago. I had always wanted to work overseas so when the opportunity came up to work for Emirates, I jumped at the chance. I could see the advantages professionally, as the various elements of my role looked very compelling, but my husband and I were also interested in travelling and exploring this part of the world.

I spent part of my childhood as an expat kid in Hong Kong, and wanted to give my children a similar experience. It is the type of experience that shapes your world view.

Living as an expat in the Middle East really does feel like an adventure at times, with constant change and a different approach to many things than the western world. In a way, this is what I was seeking, and it has been all this and more.

Can you tell us more about your role?

I work for Emirates and my role is in International Affairs. I am responsible for developing and implementing government engagement strategies across Asia, Africa, and Australasia, alongside our leadership teams in those regions. We do this primarily through advocacy and building relationships, trust and goodwill. As you might imagine, the range of issues being worked on at any one point in time is very broad – from taxation policy and visa regulations, through to various regulatory approvals and lobbying for expanded market access. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping up to date with all the changes that can affect our industry and our business. Not just on the regulatory, political and policy side, but also tracking economic data and industry developments. I can’t do my job well without having a clear picture of the environment in which we operate. That means being on the pulse of government and economic developments in Australia, as well as China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand, just to name a few.

On the personal side, being connected to so many markets means travel. Combining this with family commitments can sometimes be tricky, but the experience of working in multiple regions is part of what makes my job so interesting.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in aviation?

You cannot find a more dynamic industry than aviation – it is exciting to be a part of it. At the moment, I am enjoying being able to work on a wonderfully diverse set of issues and projects, with no one day at the office ever being the same as the next. I have worked in different parts of airlines – finance, strategy, sales and revenue optimisation. They have each been interesting in their own way.

At a purely fundamental level, I love travelling and the role aviation fulfils in bringing people together and creating shared experiences, understanding, and tolerance.

How exciting is the aviation industry in the UAE?

Dubai is perfectly positioned as an aviation epicentre, taking advantage of the location of the UAE as a natural hub for trade, investment and tourism flows. Dubai International Airport is now positioned as the largest international airport in the world, so it is an exciting place to be if you’re in the industry.

Emirates has taken advantage of its geographic position, but it is the boldness of its business model that has made it one of the largest and most consistently profitable airlines in the world today. Emirates completely rewrote the book and set its sights high from the get-go.

It will be interesting to see how aviation growth in Dubai develops as we witness the economic axis of the world shifting eastwards – Dubai is right near the centre!

What impressed you most living in Dubai?

Dubai is a great place to live and there really is something for everyone. By far the most impressive thing, though, is the sheer scale of the vision for the future, which you can see in the development going on here. This city has been in growth mode for a long time, and there is still a lot of investment in infrastructure projects, housing, shopping centres, tourism attractions, and hotels. The development around Expo 2020 is also mind blowing – a whole new precinct is being developed around the Expo site and it is set to be a major commercial hub long after Expo has finished. 

I have four children in schools here – two in senior and two in junior – and the facilities and learning experiences available to them are impressive. They are learning to speak Arabic, and, with friends from all corners of the globe, they are now in the swing of taking part in a host of different cultural celebrations each year such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Lunar New Year; as well as Ramadan and Eid. The way the community here embraces each other’s celebrations is lovely.

On the weekends, like many expats, we often act as tourists in our own backyard – exploring a festival in the old town, going for a hike in the mountains in one of the other emirates, or trying out a new beach club. Even at this time of year going into winter, the beaches have the warmest water you will ever swim in!

What are some of the unique opportunities you’ve been afforded in Dubai?

I have been fortunate with my job to meet and work with some seriously impressive people, including government and trade leaders from all over the globe, as well as take part in many interesting experiences. The calendar is always full here – the Dubai World Cup, Dubai Rugby 7s, and Dubai Air Show being just a few of the big events to be enjoyed.

We have learnt a lot about Emirati culture and history, and have also made some great friends in our time here so far. Each expat living in the UAE has a unique story to tell on what brought them here, and some of the stories are truly remarkable. It is the people connections and the story of the Dubai itself that makes it special. In this respect, living in Dubai has been a gift.