Emirates President is “positive” about travel demand recovery in 2021

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Tim Clark Image
Tim Clark is the President of the world's biggest long-haul carrier, Emirates Airlines

As coronavirus vaccinations are distributed around the world, Emirates, the largest airline in the UAE, sees a sharp recovery in demand for air travel next year.

President of Emirates Tim Clark said that the progress on the production and transport of vaccinations should be evident by the second quarter of next year. This will lead to a release in pent-up demand “across all segments” led by those who haven’t been able to travel during the pandemic suggesting that by early 2022, the carrier’s fleet of jumbo Airbus SE A380 jets could return to the skies.

“I can see demand for travel moving at pace,” Clark said. “My own view, and it’s always an optimistic view, is by the end of next calendar year or the first quarter of 2022 we’ll have all our A380s flying, Mr. Clark said.

The comments represent a rare show of positivity from an airline executive amid the worst crisis the industry has ever suffered. The coronavirus spread forced governments across the globe to close down borders or impose tight quarantine restrictions, forcing many carriers to seek funding from the state and investors or risk bankruptcy.

As demand all but dried up on its main routes, Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul carrier, was badly affected too. The carrier received $2 billion in funding from the government of Dubai, but recent promising advances in effective vaccines suggest that there will be little extra help needed, Clark said. He added that Emirates should be able to return to positive cash flow in the first half of 2021.

Mr. Clark said earlier that the development of a vaccine would be crucial for the return of the A380 to wide use. By the end of the year, Emirates will receive 3 of the jumbos, at least one of which will have a premium economy cabin, he said.

The introduction of vaccination would also require airlines and governments to lay down guidelines on whether proof of immunization is required to travel. The CEO of Australia’s Qantas Airways Alan Joyce said his airline would make it a “necessity” .

Mr. Clark said it is still “early days” to take a stand on that. “It is likely the countries themselves will decide on requirements.”

Emirates remains in the dark about when Boeing Co. will deliver its new 777X jet after a series of delays as the model is yet to be certified, he said.

“I have no idea,” Mr. Clark said. “They were due to be delivered this year in June, then it was 2021, then it was 2022. It hasn’t finished its certification program yet, both airframe and engine.