Emirates president Sir Tim Clark has said that the aviation sector is months away from going back to normal and will not suffer a long recovery, which was initially predicted by industry stakeholders during the peak of the pandemic.
Clark, who has run the Dubai-based airline since 2003, told the Telegraph the aviation sector will soon forget about Covid-19, with business travel numbers going back to pre-pandemic levels earlier than expected.
“I would say that probably by the end of next year and certainly into 2023, this will be history unless there’s another variant,” he said.
Data coming from London City airport support what Clark has predicted. Traffic at the London hub has gone up 41 per cent in September compared to August, as airlines have added rotations on core business routes such as Edinburgh and Dublin. Out of the 2019 top 15 routes, 13 are now back in operation at the airport, with Milan and Munich as the only exceptions.
“There has been a strong re-emergence of business traffic at London City,” said London City airport’s chief commercial officer Richard Hill.
“Looking ahead, we’re hopeful that government will replace the day 0-2 PCR test at the earliest possible opportunity this month and ultimately look to align arrival processes with what we now see across Europe – that will unquestionably support business traffic further still.”
Clark’s comments come at the same time as the airline has expressed its discontent towards manufacturer Boeing over delaying the delivery of its 777X twin-engine jets.
During the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) annual general meeting, Clark said that he wanted “another grown-up conversation” with the manufacturer, arguing that the 30-month delay would jeopardise Emirates‘ operations.
Initially scheduled for June 2020, the aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023. Clark reportedly said that despite ordering a fleet of 126 aircraft, the airline still does not know when the 777-9 and 777-8 versions will be available.
In June 2021 Boeing announced that by 2040, 90 per cent of Europe’s current fleet will be replaced by its fuel-efficient models, including the 777X.
“While Europe was significantly impacted during the pandemic, coordinated policies within the region have unlocked significant pent-up demand for air travel, resulting in an accelerating recovery,” said Darren Hulst, Boeing’s commercial marketing vice president. “In the long-haul segment, we see tremendous opportunity for carriers to replace older, less efficient aircraft with more versatile twin-engine models that reduce fuel use, CO2 emissions and noise.”