Emirates boss predicts quick bounceback for aviation

International aviation will bounce back quickly from the coronavirus pandemic, a top airline boss has said.

Sir Tim Clark, who has been president of Emirates since 2003, said: “People’s desire to travel, irrespective of Covid, hasn’t changed.”

Speaking to the aviation website Simply Flying, he said a “bow-wave of demand” would need to be met by a “diminished airline community” – with a particular surge between October and December this year.

“I’m very optimistic about what’s likely to happen during the course of the back three calendar months of this year,” he said.

Sir Tim said that worldwide passenger numbers would recover by next year.

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“Prior to the pandemic we had 4.5 billion passenger movements a year. We’ve probably shrunk to 500 million or a billion. 

“People say we’ll never get back to that. I don’t believe that. We will recapture that curve during the course of 2022.”

The Emirates president said that the hub-and-spoke model, based in Dubai, would continue to work well in the future.

“I see no reason to adjust our business model whatsoever.

“One flight will feed 80 destinations within two hours of arrival.”

Sir Tim said Emirates was fully committed to the Airbus A380. The Dubai carriers is by far the biggest operator of the so-called “SuperJumbo” in the world.

The plane been a failure commercially for the manufacturer, with 10-year-old jets already being scrapped and some airlines retiring their fleets during the coronavirus crisis.

But Sir Tim said Emirates would continue to fly the plane until 2036. He said prior to the coronavirus pandemic it had contributed 85 per cent of the airline’s profits. 

“It was always full,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of the 380. It will figure in the Emirates fleet for 15 years.”

But the airline boss was highly critical of Boeing’s performance in launching the Boeing 777X series – an updated version of the world’s most successful wide-bodied twin jet.

“We should have had the first one in June of last year. And so far, we don’t have any visibility as to when the first one will arrive. It’s either the back end of 2023, 2024 or possibly even 2025.”

Sir Tim confirmed that Emirates will move from its current base at Dubai International Airport toDubai World Central – also known as Al Maktoum International Airport in or around 2030.

“Whether it’ll be at the end of this decade or the beginning of the next is anyone’s guess.”

At the same time as the Emirates president was speaking, another aviation heavyweight was warning airports and air-traffic control providers not to increase charges in order to make up for coronavirus-related losses.

Willie Walsh, former chief executive of Aer Lingus, British Airways and IAG, was speaking at his inaugural news conference as director-general of the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

“If I look at our traditional problems in this area, it’s the likes of airports like Heathrow who have clearly demonstrated that they want to try and recover lost revenues.

“Now, we expect the regulator in the UK [the Civil Aviation Authority] to be very tough, to take a stand.

“We see evidence of air-traffic control suppliers who have not looked at improving the efficiency of their operation … trying to recover their costs.

“In effect some of these guys just operate like monopoly suppliers.

“We will be very strong and aggressive opposing this.”

Iata revealed figures showing that February 2021 was even worse than January for business.

International passenger demand in February was 88.7 per cent below February 2019, three percentage points below the decline in January.

Simon is hosting a free event on 28 April, where he’ll untangle the latest news in the world of travel and let you know when, where and how you can go on holiday this summer. You can book a ticket by signing up to his weekly newsletter here.

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