The airline sector faces a grave situation if traffic does not return by the end of the year, the boss of Emirates has warned.
Sir Tim Clark said all carriers had assumed they would be flying passengers again by now.
“We believed quite firmly late last year that by April/May we would start seeing an uptick in demand. Clearly that has not happened to the extent we would have wanted.”
Speaking at World Aviation Festival Virtual, Clark, Emirates’ president, said if the pandemic continued to affect travel this year, then airlines “other than Emirates” would have to find new funds.
“We are good for another six, seven, eight months in terms of cash, but if in six months global demand is where it is today, we are all going to face difficulties, not just Emirates.”
Emirates was flying all 151 Boeing 777s currently, he said, but these were mainly carrying cargo.
Clark hoped Dubai would be put on the UK’s green list, however transport secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday the issue with the UAE “is one of transit”.
However, Clark said: “People wishing to go to the UK will simply use other hubs and amplify risk because they are using two flights.”
Emirates is taking delivery of the last Airbus A380 off the production line. Clark said he would keep the double decker flying “until the 2030s”. The next largest aircraft in production, Boeing’s new 777-9, seated 150 fewer passengers, he said.
“So when demand ticks back to 4.2 billion passenger movements and grows at 7% year, how are we going to deal with (the lack of) Heathrow slots?” The larger unit will be needed.”
Clark revealed sister carrier Fly Dubai would become more integrated with Emirates’ operation.
“If the two work together, I can see Dubai will become probably one of the largest international hubs. There is a lot of work going on to see how this can be developed. We are trying to keep the brands separate but working much more closely together.”
Clark delayed his retirement due to the pandemic. He said he was “not sure” when he would step down but indicated his successor would be an internal appointment.
“The aviation sector in Dubai is quite big, so in terms of having to go outside Dubai, I’m not sure we would need to. A lot of CEOs would have difficulty in doing things the way we do things here.”