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Arab News, Saturday, Oct 17, 2020 | Safar 30, 1442

Emirates president sees strong industry bounce back despite pandemic ‘glitch’

Emirates: Emirates President Tim Clark said the coronavirus was “a glitch” in the history of the aviation sector and that global air travel demand would return more quickly and more strongly than expected.

He told the CAPA virtual aviation conference on Wednesday that international air travel demand may return sooner than expected and that network carriers such as Emirates could even emerge stronger from it.

“The pandemic is a glitch. We’ve had many of those in the past - perhaps not as significant and severe as this one for our industry, but nevertheless it’s a glitch. We will come through it and pick up again."

The industry veteran said that the network model pioneered by the Dubai-based carrier would not be threatened by the pandemic, despite the massive contraction in global flights.

"As you roll forward, is there a place for network carriers of the size, scale and panache and brand of Emirates? Of course. I’m a firm believer in that - but I would say that wouldn’t I?

“Does it mean that people will not travel over major international hubs because they are concerned about the virus? Once we have a vaccine in place and the world is sufficiently resilient or robust to deal with this and possibly more pathogens as they come at us, then I think memories are short and demand is strong and the role of the network carrier in many respects could be stronger then than it has been in the past. It’s an interesting hypothesis and many people will not agree with me. They say: ‘no, no, no, you have to downsize. I don’t believe in any of that. “
It comes amid speculation that Emirates could revisit the hub strategy it helped to pioneer that fed millions of global travellers through Dubai and extended the carrier's reach worldwide.

The airline’s chief operating officer Adel Ahmad Al Redha said in June that Emirates may need to redefine some of its operating model in response to the pandemic.

However Clark on Wednesday said that there would still be a place for the network model in the post-pandemic world.

“It is because we were able to cobble this highly sophisticated international network model that many countries and cities within those countries that hitherto never had meaningful air services were able to get them. You have to assume you will recapture the growth curve that took place prior to the pandemic.”

“I think there will be a bounce back and I think demand will drive that bounce back. Whether the airline industry is in good enough shape to respond to that is another question.

Despite his confidence in the resilience of the industry, he acknowledged that in the short term, air travel restrictions put in place by various governments were likely to "get worse before they get better."

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