Emirates has offered to act as a global distribution network for the Covid-19 vaccine from its Dubai hub.
The airline’s president, Sir Tim Clark, said the carrier had a pharmaceutical distribution hub already established in Dubai that had been used to transport medical and PPE equipment during the pandemic.
“We will make absolutely sure that when the vaccine comes down the line we are ready to move,” he said. “We can get the vaccine across the planet within 3-4 months of production. If we are charged with the task, we can get it done.”
Speaking during WTM Virtual, Clark said the airline now had 151 Boeing 777s back in operation and was now reactivating Airbus A380s as freighters, with one operating on Monday.
Asked if he was surprised at the lack of harmonisation on air passenger testing, he replied: “No, I am not. No government on the planet has faced anything like this.” He said trying to set up a ‘track and trace’ regime at Emirates “would have taken us years”. “Governments have taken a pasting, I think, unreasonably.”
Clark said travel’s return was “contingent upon a vaccination and its efficacy and the ability to distribute it in a fair and equitable manner across the planet”.
He said leisure travel would quickly return post-pandemic.
“People will jump on planes, trains, boats to get to places they have aspired to during the dreadful lockdown.”
He disputed predictions business travel would be replaced by video conferencing. “There will be certain entities, certain events that become an anachronism, but people enjoy WTM, ITB, Arabian Travel Market because they do a number of things other than business.”
Clark said events like these proved the “networking value of meeting people in person".
“This has real value for me,” he said. “It would be silly to suggest we will all be in the hands of Zoom, etc.”