Emirates President Tim Clark has commented on the state of his airline, in an interview with CNN last week.
Earlier this month, Emirates airline announced its half-year results for 2020-2021, and for the first time in 30 years, and the second time ever since it first began operating, the company made a loss.
Emirates Group reported a revenue of AED 13.7 billion ($3.7 billion) for the first six months of 2020-21, down 74% from AED 53.3 billion ($14.5 billion) during the same period last year.
Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, aside from the decreased travel, Emirates and dnata’s hub in Dubai had to suspend scheduled passenger flights for 8 weeks during April and May as for part of pandemic containment measures.
According to Bloomberg, Clark even postponed his retirement into next year to help steer the airline through its toughest crisis yet.
Below are highlights from his interview with CNN:
Tim Clark, Emirates: I can see no other way out of this pandemic [than vaccines] and there have to be the silver bullet. We’ve got track and trace, we’ve got lockdowns, we’ve got all sorts of protocols, social distancing, etcetera, etcetera. But still in the West, in America, in Europe, it is rampant. Even under nine months of all sorts of protocols to mitigate the risk of infection. So, for me, if it is as it is, it’s absolutely vital that we roll these out at scale, at speed and get them administered as quickly as possible. Only then, will we get ourselves through this.
John Defterios, CNN: Let’s talk it through. What’s realistic in terms of global distribution? You have the hub here, set and ready to go. Are we looking at the second half of 2021? Or second quarter of 2021 on a global scale?
Tim Clark, Emirates: No, I think if they do come out and we have got the logistics of the supply chain sorted. Of course, in Europe and America, they can be road transport, they can be the integrators from FedEx, UPS, flying around, and do all that. But when you’re talking about this transoceanic remote continent from the actual production source of the pharmaceutical side of things, you need to get all this sorted out. It is that, in tandem with the scaling up of production, in tandem with the scaling up of the supply chain – whether the ground or air, will take time. Six to nine months, which is why, I believe, we will see in the course of ’21, all of this getting into place in the last quarter and as that happens, you will see demand for air travel grow – I believe – at pace.
John Defterios, CNN: At pace, back to normal perhaps, by the first quarter of 2022 is what you’re suggesting?
Tim Clark, Emirates: I would think that during the first quarter, first half, the first six months of ’22, you’ll see a lot of this coming back. So, I’m expecting, maybe I’m overoptimistic, but in all the years I’ve been in this business and led a business which is global in its reach and seeing how countries have responded to various crises, time and time again. Even with the big crisis, the big disruptions to the global economy, is its bounce back and that’s what I’m expecting.
Last month, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths spoke extensively with media, and his statements align with what the Emirates chief is saying.
He told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble that he believes that the coordination of three things — testing, travel protocol and quarantines — is the “essential next step to be able to get the world moving again.”
Griffiths also told Reuters that Dubai airport could see passenger traffic fall 55-65% this year to 30-40 million passengers if it continues on its current trajectory.
As for the overall travel and tourism sector in the region, it seems like they’ve got some tough few years ahead.
In October, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) downgraded its traffic forecast for the Middle East for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery. The region is expected to see 60 million travelers in 2020 compared to the 203 million in 2019, down 70%, with a full return to 2019 levels not expected until late 2024.