Dubai's Emirates performing 'better than expected', says airline president

Waheed Abbas/Dubai
Filed on May 24, 2021
Photo: Reuters

Quick and cheaper PCR tests key to recovery, says airline president Sir Tim Clark.

Emirates Airline is performing better than it had initially expected, the Dubai-based carrier's president Sir Tim Clark said on Monday.

“We are a lot further on and much better than we would be at this time. I am not saying that’s good. It is just better than what we thought we would be when we looked at it in the spring of last year... We activated passenger aircraft as soon we could and cargo was always on,” Sir Clark said during an interview with aviation consultant John Strickland.


>> India-UAE flights to remain suspended until June 14: Emirates

He ruled out a merger with the budget carrier flydubai and insisted that the two airlines will continue to operate independently.

“The brands would remain separate but, going forward, the airlines would operate far closer than they have perhaps done in the past. There will be a rationalisation of networks. Notwithstanding, the competitive issue is something that we have to be careful,” he said.

He said Dubai is a global aviation hub and it has a number of tools that can keep it flying high.

“There are many international hubs that don’t even get near Dubai. Such is the strength of Dubai. It is not just a transit hub. Dubai is continuing to excel and is a major global attraction. It has a huge gravitational pull within a 2,000-mile radius and it is reaching out further,” said Sir Clark.

He is confident that the world will eventually overcome the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic will all go away. The most important thing is to crack the problem. Eventually, we will be back where we were and this pandemic will be history. In the end, you have to believe that we will restore ourselves to what we used to be,” he added.

He stated that low-cost carriers would benefit when the aviation sector resumes in a post-Covid world, thanks to strong domestic demand in the US, China, and Europe.

He warned that large elements of costs such as PCR tests and inequitable distribution vaccination are going to hamper the demand for the aviation sector.


>> Emirates sees travel picking up in summer as markets reopen

“We've got to find a way to test PCR quickly, and the cost of doing it should be virtually nothing,” he said.

"If the Covid-19 vaccine is distributed equitably worldwide and Covid-19 testing regimes are simplified, this will lend some sort of help to the sector and it will be back in business at some scale by the end of this year," he added.

Emirates says to work closer with flydubai

Emirates will work closer with flydubai but the two Dubai state-owned airlines will not merge into a single brand, Clark said.

“The brands would remain separate but going forward the airlines would operate far more closer than they have perhaps done in the past,” he said.

Emirates warns Boeing

The head of Emirates airline, one of Boeing’s biggest customers, has also warned the US planemaker that it would refuse delivery of 777x jets if they fall short of contractual performance commitments.

In an interview broadcast on Monday, President Tim Clark said he had not received any performance details of the jet’s engines so far even though test flights began in 2020.

The influential industry veteran has raised concerns that Boeing had a recent history of over-promising on performance of new jets, including the in service 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner.

“We will not accept an aeroplane unless it is performing 100 per cent to contract,” Clark told aviation consultant John Strickland in a pre-recorded online interview for Dubai’s Arabian Travel Market trade show.

“Unless it is doing what they said it would do and contracted, we will not take that aeroplane.”

Boeing declined comment. Engine maker GE could not immediately be reached for comment.

State-owned Emirates is one of the world’s biggest long-haul airlines, with a fleet of around 140 Boeing 777-300s and 115 Airbus A380s.

It has ordered 126 777x and 30 787s worth over $50 billion at list prices with the U.S. planemaker.

Boeing has been developing the widebody jet, a new version of its popular 777 series, with the goal of releasing it in late 2023, three years later than planned.

Emirates, who was supposed to receive its first last July, doubts it will start receiving the jets until 2024 though Boeing had told them it would come in the back end of 2023, Clark said.

“There are issues on that airplane. I’m not altogether clear as to when we’re going to get them.”

He said the delays meant Emirates, a launch customer of the new jet, over the next three years had no visibility on how it would replace its current 777-300s with the new 777x jets.

Clark repeated recent criticisms that Boeing needed to undertake a cultural and governance change following the production of the flawed 737 MAX, which was suspended worldwide for nearly two years following two fatal crashes.

He said he recently told Boeing to only start commercially producing a new aircraft once it had been fully tested and certified.

— With inputs from Reuters


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