Dubai-based airline Emirates is expecting its entire fleet of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s to return to regular service by the end of 2021, in light of the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The carrier’s president, Tim Clark, has said in the past that a worldwide vaccination program would be critical to the recovery of the aviation industry.
Clark has now shared his optimism in light of the significant uptake of countries starting their vaccination programs, with many countries hoping to have the majority of their population vaccinated by year end.
He remained confident despite recent waves of infections through Europe and the US.
“I think we always anticipated a bumpy patch,” the airline president said in an interview with Reuters.
“[However,] once the pandemic is over and the global inoculation program has kicked in at pace, then I see the restoration and a recapture of activity curves in all aspects of the global economy, probably in the middle to back-end of this year.”
Emirates is currently flying just 17 of its 115 Airbus A380s, and 137 of its 160 Boeing 777s. Currently, the airline has some of its passenger jets operating instead for cargo.
Presently, Emirates is flying to around 120 destinations, compared with the 157 destinations it served before the pandemic hit.
By retaining much of its pre-pandemic network, and keeping majority of its 777s in service, the airline is in a “good place” to ramp up its operations “as soon as the doors open” and demand begins to return, according to Clark.
Emirates reported a $3.4 billion half-year loss, and is anticipating to report a full-year loss for the financial year ending 31 March, Clark said. This comes despite the $2 billion in government aid provided by Dubai.
However, Clark is optimistic that the airline will be out of the red by year-end 2023, and will not require any further financial aid from the Dubai government.
Unfortunately, others in the industry do not share the same optimism.
The newly-detected stronger strains of the coronavirus in Britain and South Africa have seen airline bookings take a hit, as governments implement new lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association does not expect a return to positive cash flow across the industry until 2022.
“Meanwhile, the cash burn is going to continue” and may even increase in Europe, according to IATA chief economist Brian Pearce.
Some carriers may yet run out of cash, Pearce added, and airlines reliant on government bailouts may place their hands out once more.