In an ATM Marketplace webinar on Monday, the President of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark, said that he thinks that the industry could begin to recover in terms of passenger travel sometime next year, should a vaccine be made readily available. However, he also expressed the belief that a return to pre-corona business levels could be as far away as 2024 for the UAE flag-carrier.
Normalcy in up to four years
The Dubai-based airline flew to 157 destinations in 83 countries before the pandemic hit. The UAE even went so far as to suspend all commercial air traffic in and out of the country in March, effectively grounding all of Emirates’ aircraft. After receiving special permits, it has operated a few select flights to a handful of destinations.
Now, its outgoing President Sir Tim Clark says it could take up to four years before the airline is back to operating all of its network. In a live-streamed conversation with aviation consultant John Strickland, Clark stated that it could take up to four years before his airline regains a sense of normalcy.
“I think probably by the year 2022/23, 2023/24 we will see things coming back to some degree of normality and Emirates will be operating its network as it was and hopefully as successfully as it was,” Reuters quoted Clark as saying.
Unspecified number of job cuts
Emirates has warned that the current period will be the most challenging it has ever seen, revealing that this would result in an unspecified number of job losses. Just earlier on Monday, reports came in of the first staff layoffs as those on probation received letters informing them that their contracts would end later this month.
“We just can’t keep our employees doing nothing for so long so we’re going to have to let some of them go unfortunately,” Clark said in Monday’s webinar according to Arabian Business.
Quick recovery if vaccine available
Clark did, however, express some optimism for a quick recovery for the industry, should a functioning vaccine be made widely available by early 2021.
“We will start to see an uptick, quite a large uptick in demand for travel,” Clark said and added that the Emirates fleet would be ready to fly within 48 hours of making that decision.
Most likely though, the pace of return for demand won’t mean that we will see convoys of planes flying out of storage all at once as they are called back into duty on a moment’s notice, even if it is a very engaging image.
Clark further warned that the much-debated social distancing on planes was not economically and environmentally practical because it would mean flying aircraft half empty.
Retirement planned for June
Sir Tim Clark has been the President of Emirates since January 2003 and with the airline since its inauguration 1985. His retirement was announced late last year. He was meant to step down this month, but as suggested by Forbes, that time-line may no longer be entirely valid.
When he does leave, Clark will stay on as an advisor to the airline. Advise, and experience will most certainly be needed as the carrier attempts to reignite its decimated network.