Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline: “Whatever happens, goods keep flying”

Lleva has led the Emirates flag line for over thirty years and has led it through various global crises. He is optimistic about the Covid 19 pandemic. We speak to Emirates Airline Chairman Sir Tim Clark. You can see the full interview in the video at the top of this page.

– James O´ Hagan, Euronews: Dubai was one of the first destinations to come out of lockdown. How do you think you did it?

– Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates: It was one of the first countries, not the only one, to actually adopt the protocols to deal with the COVID pandemic, either with social distancing and wearing a mask or with a tracking system. So they were able to do it with a degree of control that not many other countries have had.

With the protocols that we had in the airplanes regarding the hygiene and health measures that we had taken; Regarding the crew’s personal protective equipment, as well as all other protocols regarding on-board meal service and the way we prepare the airport, we concluded in Emirates that it was a good time to start . It coincided with the government’s criteria. And so we did.

With the route between the UK and the UAE, we have taken advantage of all of this and are already seeing big increases in demand. Booking speed has certainly increased from mid-December until now.

– Euronews: And it has been a difficult year for the company. He recently announced his first loss in more than three decades. But they have reported very optimistic forecasts for 2021. And he has said that he expects the entire A380 fleet to be operational again. Where does this optimism come from?

– TC: I honestly believe that with the brightest minds on the planet in medical research, in pharmaceuticals, in government, recognizing that the only way out of this particular problem was the rapid production of a vaccine that had high levels of efficacy. . And that’s what happened. I’ve never seen anything as fast-paced as this, but it has happened. So we are organizing ourselves to try to reactivate the A380 fleet as quickly as possible in parallel, in tandem, with the growth in demand across our network. We hope to have you all flying next year.

– Euronews: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was recently quoted as saying that international passengers would need to be vaccinated before boarding. Is it up to the airlines to impose these protocols on passengers?

– TC: I think that what will determine the protocols around those who get vaccinated and those who don’t get vaccinated will not be decided by the airlines. It will be decided by the countries these people travel to.

So the countries are going to have to agree on the entry requirements for travelers to comply with the protocols on the application of the vaccine and its duration. And from that, they will impose some kind of requirement before traveling. I do not think it is one for everyone, I would like to believe that the G20 will apply the same measures. I am not sure that is the case. So the airlines will have to comply, as we had to do the last six months, with all the changing requirements of the countries.

– Euronews: How did you keep up with the rule changes?

– TC: The truth is that it was a Herculean task. Everything was changing non-stop, we were not in control because countries changed their minds every ten minutes at certain times in July, August and September.

– Euronews: As soon as the pandemic started, it managed to quickly change its business model and cargo became a crucial part of it. Have you continued like this or returned to commercial flights?

– TC: No, on the contrary, the load continues to predominate. The demand is very, very strong. International long-distance capacity has almost completely disappeared. So Emirates now has 151 777 aircraft flying. Some of them are cargo planes. Many others we have converted. We did it pretty early when we saw what was likely to happen, because whatever happens to the world economy, goods keep flying.

So today we are serving just over 104 destinations, which is just a little less than the 142 we normally do. Most of those planes are loaded with cargo, very high performance cargo, and we were able to get passengers onto those flights. So overall, that operation has been particularly successful.

– Euronews: Have you given the Emirates a pause this year to reflect on how to proceed with your strategy to remain more sustainable?

– TC: On the need to do our job, not only in propulsion, that is, the fuel we burn, but in all other aspects of how we do it, both at airports and at the company. And there have been measurable changes in how we do it. And our carbon footprint has been declining for a long time.

Biofuels are obviously the way to go in many respects. The problem is the scalability of production. And I have always been concerned that a large amount of land or sea is required for the production of algae to obtain the thermal power equivalent to that of a jet engine using biofuels. So it’s always going to be difficult to get to scale.

Do not forget that the United Arab Emirates burns 100 million barrels of oil a year, which is one percent … a day of production of the world economy, of the consumption of world producers, rather. So getting to that level is quite difficult. So where do we go with this? Regarding electric motors: I don’t think that will ever happen. I’m sorry. It’s good for the automotive industry, good for many things, but not for moving a 600-ton plane at 600 miles per hour with 500 people on board. It will not work.

– Euronews: And what do you think of hydrogen?

– TC: I think that if something is going to break this dilemma it could be hydrogen. We are already seeing it in the automotive sector, they are considering whether hydrogen is better than electricity. But both cars exist today. If anything, that’s going to be the way to go.

– Euronews: The Airbus 380 is a defining element of your brand image, but is that aircraft as environmentally and economically sustainable as some of the new twin-engine aircraft such as the 787 or the A350?

– TC: The 380 is always the one that is mentioned as the most unsustainable, if you can call it that … the problem child of the aviation world, but still, if you look at today’s 380 we have first class and tourist , two classes, carries 615 passengers. If you put that aircraft, let’s say on the Dubai / London route. To carry 615 passengers on the 787-9, you would need 2.3 trips from the 787-9.

So in many respects, the economy of the trip, the carbon footprint of the trip, rather, of the 787 nine, given that they would have to make double trip Heathrow-Dubai, the carbon footprint of that plane is raised compared to a operation of the 380. So in many ways, it’s a better plane for the job we schedule it for. But the airline is quantified per kilometer per passenger progressively reducing its carbon footprint anyway.