Tim Clark: Aviation industry could return “to some kind of normality” in 2021



During the opening session of Arabian Travel Market’s inaugural virtual event, ATM Virtual, aviation industry veteran Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, has outlined the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry, as well as the measures implemented by the company in response to the pandemic.

Speaking during an interview with respected aviation expert John Strickland, Director of JLS Consulting, on the opening day of the virtual event, Sir Tim, said: “I don’t think in my career I have seen anything like this, it is a huge structural change to our industry. In general terms, we have seen a US$15 trillion torpedo hit the global economy and its crippled many, many sectors, with transportation and leisure just a few of the casualties.”

“My own belief is there is sufficient resilience in the global economy to take this trauma as long as it doesn’t go on for too long. If we can accept there is a finite point where we will see the back of this, with adjustments to the way we go about our lives, the way we go about our business, and our travel aspirations, we will see things moving back to some kind of normality during the course of 2021,” he added.

With many fleets around the world grounded and potentially some not coming back, Sir Tim, who has dedicated 35 years to growing Emirates Airline to become the largest long-haul airline in the world and helping transform Dubai into a major global travel hub, also discussed the future of the airline.

“Planning for resumption is quite complicated, needless to say, we have a 24/7 watch on it as countries start to relax their access requirements but I see some difficulties as I don’t believe they will open at the pace we would like. I think there will be a degree of what they started to call the bubble effect, i.e. countries selecting other countries that are relatively COVID free and therefore allowing services between those countries.

“We’ve seen the beginning of this and until we get much more clarity on quarantine, flight protocols and how airports are going to handle these passengers when they eventually get moving, it’s still early days in terms of understanding what is going to happen.”

Speaking more generally about the aviation industry, Sir Tim concluded by outlining the important role that governments play around the world, understanding what the airline industry requires, he said:

“The aviation business is in a critical and very fragile state at the moment and needs all the help it can get. Access, getting passengers and freight moving again, not necessarily to the levels pre-COVID, but at least getting things going to give the cash lifelines they need, otherwise I’m not optimistic that some of the carriers here today, having already been significantly bailed out, will get through the next few months.”

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