Emirates fears the Omicron variant could cause “significant traumas” in the aviation industry and the Dubai-based airline may have to delay the expanded return of its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo as a result, airline president Sir Tim Clark said on Tuesday.
Countries around the world have reacted to the highly-mutated Omicron variant by reimposing travel bans and introducing restrictions such as compulsory COVID-19 testing and quarantines.
So far, those restrictions haven’t resulted in significant numbers of passengers putting off their existing travel plans and Emirates is still seeing people making new bookings, Clark told a Reuters Next conference.
The entire aviation industry is hoping that recently imposed restrictions are temporary and short-lived as scientists race to find out exactly how big a threat the Omicron variant poses to the world. Much more information should be available in between 2 – 3 weeks time.
“I would say probably by the end of December, we’ll have a much clearer position,” Clark told the conference. “But in that time, December is a very important month for the air travel business.
“If that is lost, or the winter is lost to a lot of carriers, there will be significant traumas in the business, certainly the aviation business and the periphery,” Clark continued.
Emirates announced plans at the recent Dubai Air Show to return 60 of its Airbus A380’s to the skies by the end of the year in response to improving travel demand but those plans may now be halted if restrictions temper demand.
Clark said that he still hoped to have Emirates’ entire fleet of superjumbos flying by next summer and that the airline’s growth was currently only being held back by its ability to hire enough pilots and cabin crew.
The carrier slashed its workforce at the height of the pandemic and is now on a worldwide hunt to hire enough crew for its planned operation.
“We are continuing to move as if this variant will be dealt with,” Clark told the conference. “If it isn’t … we will retard our plans accordingly.”
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.