International travel is likely to remain subdued until the end of the year as countries reintroduce tough restrictions to control COVID-19 infections, the head of Dubai-based airline Emirates said on Wednesday (February 10).
The comments from Tim Clark represent a more pessimistic view after he told Reuters last month he did not believe the recovery would be further impeded by a new wave of infections and restrictions.
“It is going to take longer than I would have hoped and I think probably we are going to see some difficulties. We are not going to see capacity return that I hoped in July and August, I think, maybe (it will return) in the last quarter this year,” Clark told a virtual summit by aviation consultancy CAPA.
Britain this week announced passengers arriving from certain countries would have to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days, a similar system to Australia.
Clark, who has delayed his retirement to tackle the coronavirus crisis, said countries like Britain had taken “fairly draconian positions” with regards to international travel.
The British government has said the stronger measures are needed to prevent new variants of the virus from thwarting its rapid vaccination programme.
Britain in January reimposed quarantine restrictions on travellers from the United Arab Emirates as cases in the Gulf state rapidly increased.
Clark said he expected governments would continue to close borders and place restrictions on international travel until they get a better understanding of how to deal with the new variants.
He added that the pandemic is also one of the reasons for delayed deliveries of the Boeing 777x.
“The 777x was due to come in June of last year, now it’s unlikely to be before the first quarter of 2024,” he said.
The plane was originally due to enter service with Emirates in June 2020, but a longer and costlier certification process due to the scrutiny of the 737 MAX, which was grounded for almost two years following the fatal crashes, and the pandemic have caused the delay.
The 71-year-old, a respected industry veteran, has throughout the crisis tended to be more bullish about a rebound than many of his peers.
Unlike some other airlines, Emirates lacks a domestic market to cushion it against the downturn in international travel.
(Production: Tarek Fahmy)