Sir Tim Clark, the outgoing President of Dubai-based Emirates Airline, has admitted that the Airbus A380 superjumbo “is over” in an interview with the National. Sir Tim spearheaded Emirates’ vision of becoming the world’s largest A380 operator with 115 of the double-deck aircraft currently in its fleet. Emirates was already making plans to slowly retire the aircraft type but these plans will now likely be sped up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know the A380 is over, the (Boeing) 747 is over but the A350 and the 787 (Dreamliner) will always have a place,” Sir Tim told the National. “They may not be ordered soon, they may have orders deferred and pushed back, but eventually they will come back, and they will be a better fit probably for global demand in the years post the pandemic,” he continued.
Last year, Emirates confirmed plans to radically alter its aircraft fleet by finalising an order for 30 Boeing 787-9 aircraft at a list value of nearly $9 billion – deliveries are set to start in 2023. The airline also plans to take delivery of 50 Airbus A350-900 aircraft at a list value of $16 billion.
Sir Tim did not, however, comment on plans by the airline for a massive order of 126 next-generation Boeing 777X aircraft. Some carriers have signalled their intent to defer orders or change them for smaller aircraft like the Dreamliner.
“We have just got to accept that in the next year or two, perhaps a bit longer, demand for air travel is going to be tempered in many respects,” Sir Tim said. “What emerges from this will be in my view almost perhaps 20 or 30 per cent less than what we were experiencing prior to the coronavirus kicking in,” he warned.
As to short term predictions, Sir Tim remains pessimistic. “It’s anybody’s guess as to what is going to happen, what people will do this summer,” he said. “Frankly if it was me, I’d write it off, and if you get anything good for you, that’s great. But don’t think it’s going to come back like a tsunami because I don’t think it will.”
Sir Tim seemed to support government bailouts for airlines, claiming that 85 per cent of airlines could of gone “bust” without State support. “Had the natural laws of supply and demand survival of the fittest worked, I think we would have seen the culling of many airlines,” he says.
But how long some governments can continue supporting smaller cash-strapped airlines is uncertain. “I am still not optimistic about the survivability of quite a few carriers,” he continued.
Sir Tim was due to retire in June but has agreed to stay on for the time being to help see Emirates through the crisis. “I am probably fairly useful still because I have the experience and my instincts; generally when we’re up against it, I tend to fall back on my instincts and very often I’m pleased to say they got us out of the hole,” he said of his continuing role at the airline.
As to a way out of this crisis – Sir Tim believes the world could be on the road to mass vaccination by the middle of next year. “If that happens all this business about spacing on aeroplanes, on buses, trains and restaurants and hotels goes away.”
“In the meantime of course, as long as this is going on, and if it’s another year then we are going to have to live with the agonies as far as air transport is concerned … with countries … taking down lockdown procedures.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.