International travel still remains rocked after over a year since the pandemic was declared. Passengers have struggled to hit the skies during these challenging conditions, with governments and airlines still trying to find ways to reopen the industry. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark, affirms that vaccinations are the answer to restarting travel.
Last summer, Clark shared his initial expectations for reopening. He felt that the only way that there would be a consistent return is for a strong vaccination program across the globe. However, there have been difficulties along the way. Issues with logistics, politics, and administration have impacted the rollout out. Nonetheless, despite the teething problems, there has been considerable progress over the last few months. As a result, the executive feels that the vaccine will remain the key ingredient for opening travel. Other measures are just supplementary to this.
“We can advance our track and trace, our testing regimes, etc., and there have been major advances in that. But in the end, the notion that the global population has to be vaccinated was the only way to unlock. I thought that at the time and I haven’t changed that view, and as you know we’ve experienced difficulties,” Clark shared.
“I could see that there will be vaccine distribution problems or there will be scalability of production problems, and I could see it being politicized. Much of that has happened, but in the end, these vaccines will come out at pace and at scale. And I think by the end of this year, we will have cracked the nut. So, it’s a question of countries opening borders, reducing the conditionality of entry, and giving the airlines a chance to come back. That can only happen if you have a double vaccine and perhaps a PCR negative before you travel.”
The need for change
Clark highlights that there needs to be consistency across the continents. Safe but balanced measures need to be implemented to help passengers in the next chapter. Ultimately, stringent travel restrictions are the biggest cause of the significant drop in travel over the last year. There is a lack of coordination when it comes to requirements, leaving many members of the public stranded or unable to see their loved ones for numerous months.
Therefore, it’s not a surprise that Emirates became one of the first carriers globally to trial the travel pass from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The mobile app endeavors to help passengers ensure their vaccination records and/or pre-travel test meet the requirements of their destination. A uniformed, clear approach such as this could do wonders in the long-term recovery process.
Leading by example
Emirates has been keen to get its own employees vaccinated since the turn of the year. In February, the airline conducted the first flight serviced by fully vaccinated frontline teams across all passenger touchpoints. Overall, 70 vaccinated frontline team members across the operational scope supported a trip from Dubai to Los Angeles.
As of the end of last month, over 35,000 Emirates employees have received their coronavirus vaccine shot from one of the firm’s vaccination centers. Additionally, more than 85% of the carrier’s pilots and flight attendants already have received two doses. The company was also preparing ahead of the rollout, getting Dubai World Central ready for distribution last fall.
Altogether, the world largely remains grounded when it comes to international travel. There is, nonetheless, plenty of hope heading into the summer amid the continuation of vaccination programs. So, Clark and Emirates will be keeping a close eye on the progress this year.
What are your thoughts about how vaccinations will be crucial to restarting travel? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.