Sir Tim Clark, the long-serving president of Emirates and the architect behind the airline’s business plan to make the Airbus A380 superjumbo its iconic flagship aircraft says he hopes the entire fleet will be flying by April 2022. Sir Tim had previously declared that the Corona crisis meant that the future of the A380 “is over” and recently said that a recovery in demand for air travel would likely require a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus.
In an interview with the Sunday Times (paywall), Sir Tim said Emirates had no plans to “bottle out on the big bird” despite claims that the airline was attempting to defer or even cancel its remaining order of A380’s from aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
“The A380 has defined us,” Sir Tim said in the interview. “As demand returns, and given the slot availability at prime hubs, there will be a place for it. I’m hoping by April 2022, all our A380s will be flying again.”
Emirates is by far the largest operator of the A380 with a total of 116 superjumbos in its fleet. The airline has denied reports that it could permanently decommission 40 per cent of its A380 fleet as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but around 600 of the aircraft’s pilots were made redundant in a wave of mass-layoffs several weeks ago.
Around one-tenth of the airline’s 60,000 strong workforce had been laid off, Sir Tim admitted and there are reports that number could be doubled in the coming weeks. Sir Tim said the airline was reviewing its staff situation every week. “We’re very mindful of the fact that it is destroying people’s lives,” he said of the redundancies.
But as it stands, Sir Tim warned: “We’ve got $50 billion of assets (aircraft), 22,000 cabin crew and 4,500 pilots not gainfully employed.” Cabin crew have had their wages slashed by 50 per cent through September.
Since being allowed to restart regularly scheduled flights, Emirates has only been using its fleet of smaller Boeing 777-300 aircraft. That’s set to change on July 15 when the first A380’s will be brought back into service after an extended grounding at Dubai’s World Central Airport and pressed into service on its flagship routes from Dubai to London Heathrow and Paris.
Sir Tim hoped the resumption of normal passenger services at London Heathrow would “help to speed up a relaxation of restrictions in other countries which will allow us to get going again”. From Tuesday, Emirates will be allowed to fly tourists to Dubai for the first time since March 25. Foreigners will be required to take a COVID-19 test before being allowed into Dubai.
Things, however, might get worse before they get better Clarke warns. “I see things getting worse as government support schemes taper. But by next April, May and June it will really start coming back.”
“The thirst for knowledge, experience, business, leisure — that isn’t going to change,” Sir Tim said optimistically. “Air travel has been growing at 7% a year on four billion passengers a year. Do the maths. In the next 10 years, the number will double to eight billion. Give it a year or two and travel will come roaring back.”
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.