LONDON – In an interview on Bloomberg TV today, Emirates (EK) President Tim Clark laid down some information about plans for the airline post-COVID.

Clark stated that he expects a sharp recovery in demand for EK’s services, with him offering the view that the entirety of the airline’s Airbus A380 fleet to be back in service by 2022. “I can see demand for travel moving at pace,” Clark said. “My own view, and it’s always an optimistic view, is by end of next calendar year or the first quarter of 2022 we’ll have all our A380s flying.”

He added that the return of the aircraft to service overly depends on the development of the vaccine and when it will be widely distributed globally.

Photo: Daniel Sander

Hopeful Finances?

Earlier this year, the airline received around US$2bn in additional funding by the Dubai Government, giving it the lifeline it needs to cope through the pandemic. However, Clark was keen to mention that if demand rises with the distribution of a vaccine, then Emirates will return to a positive cash flow by the first half of next year.

This is due to the idea that this will lead to a release in conserved demand across all segments of the airline’s business, which will be encouraged by passengers who believe that they deserve a holiday.

Photo: Boeing

Boeing 777X Delivery Timetable

Clark was also pressed about deliveries of its Boeing 777X aircraft that it is due to take over the next few years, with Clark saying that the “airline remains in the dark” about such dates.

“I have no idea,” Clark said. “They were due to be delivered this year in June, then it was 2021, then it was 2022. It hasn’t finished its certification program yet, both airframe and engine.”

EK remain the largest customer of the aircraft, having originally ordered 150 units of the type at the Dubai Air Show back in November 2013. However, back in August this year, the airline’s Chief Operating Officer Adel Al Redha confirmed that EK will be looking to swap some of the orders for Boeing 787 aircraft.

Photo: John Leivaditis

Clark Speaking Sense?

Clark’s words in that Bloomberg interview is reflective of what the airline has managed to resume over the course of this year.

Earlier this month, the airline confirmed it would be taking the last bunch of A380s that it still has on order from Airbus, hinting confidence in the aircraft during and after the pandemic. At the same time, Emirates has reinstated A380 services to London (LHR), Manchester (MAN), Moscow (DME), and Amman (AMM) showing slow and gradual demand.

Whilst it has lost over US$1.4bn due to refunds, it is something that the airline remains confident about making back, especially with the positive cash flow pledge by next year. Furthermore, even if it has been cutting jobs, it has also been able to restore full salaries, from the original furlough pay the airline had offered.

Photo: John Leivaditis

Good News for the A380

For enthusiasts, this is good news for the Airbus A380 and from the EK perspective, it was never in doubt that the aircraft would be retired that early.

This is especially due to the fact of how many are in the fleet at the moment. With airlines such as HiFly (5K), Air France (AF), Qantas (QF), and Lufthansa (LH) making withdrawals and retirements of the aircraft, it is nice to know that such preservation is taking place from the EK side.

It is evident that its fate isn’t as sealed as its competitor of the Boeing 747, which has seen significant retirements over the course of this year, notably with British Airways (BA), KLM (KL) and others.

For Emirates, it will be interesting to see how the airline fares over the next year, especially with a fully-operable A380 fleet by next year and 2022, to see whether it indeed fills the seats like it used to.

Photo: John Leivaditis

Featured Image: Emirates Airbus A380. Photo Credit: Kochan Kleps