Frankly Speaking: Emirates Airline chief Tim Clark expects return to ‘full capacity’ by summer of 2022

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Updated 04 July 2021

Frankly Speaking: Emirates Airline chief Tim Clark expects return to ‘full capacity’ by summer of 2022

Appearing on Frankly Speaking, Sir Tim Clark also offered advice on Saudi plans for launching a second international airline. (AN Photo)
  • Once the pandemic is over, there will be a tsunami of demand from people wanting to travel, Clark told Arab News
  • Appearing on Frankly Speaking, he also offered advice on Saudi plans for launching a second international airline

 

DUBAI: Emirates will be back to full capacity by next summer as the pandemic-stricken aviation industry enjoys an “exceptional surge” in passenger numbers, Sir Tim Clark, the airline’s president, told Arab News.

“Taking the short-term view, I think we’ve got another six months of difficulty. If you ask me about the summer of 2022, I’m fairly confident that next year we’ll see a completely different picture, and that certainly airlines like Emirates will have restored themselves to full capacity, albeit possibly six months later than we originally thought,” he said.

“Once the pandemic is over, there will be a tsunami of demand from people wanting to travel — whether it be friends and relatives, second homes, business, leisure — the multiple segments all of which have been suppressed over the last 15 or 16 months,” Clark added.

He gave his confident forecast during an interview on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with influential policy-makers and business people.

In the course of a wide-ranging discussion about the Dubai-based carrier and the global aviation industry, Clark spoke of the improving financial situation at Emirates, which lost $5.5 billion last year, as well as the possibility of a merger with rival Abu Dhabi airline Etihad.




Emirates has suffered financially during the pandemic lockdown, which grounded its fleet entirely for two months before a selective reopening from last summer. (AFP/File Photo)

He also discussed the future of the A380 aircraft, which has not taken to the air since the pandemic struck last year, and offered some expert advice to Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom plans to launch a second international airline.

He was adamant that the Emirates business model — providing global connectivity around the Dubai hub for an ever-increasing air travel market — would be effective “in perpetuity.”

“Are you suggesting that people won’t travel, that they won’t want to do all the things that they did prior to the pandemic? Are you suggesting that, as many do, that you and I talking on these video conferencing platforms is going to kill the need to travel on business? Are people not going to travel for holidays, for leisure, for visiting friends and relatives for the multiplicity of reasons that people travel across the planet,” he asked.

“Dubai will reassert itself as a global super hub. It’ll strengthen that. The airport will strengthen, and we’ll have more cities on the network within the next three to five years. So just watch this space.”

Dubai was right to reopen its economy and its airline last year even as the pandemic raged around the world and new variants of the virus emerged, Clark insisted.

“They were first movers, remember, in establishing lockdown in April and May last year. They were early movers in the acceptance that vaccines are going to sort the problem out eventually. So, did they make the right decision? Yes, they did. The airline adapted fairly quickly as it has done to the downturn as a result of new variants coming out, but again the town, the city (Dubai), will adapt. It’s known for its adaptability,” he said.




During a Frankly Speaking interview, Clark spoke of the improving financial situation at Emirates, which lost $5.5 billion last year, as well as the possibility of a merger with rival Abu Dhabi airline Etihad. (AN Photo)

The US air travel market would be the first to show a significant increase, he said, followed in “fits and starts” by Europe and the rest of the world, as vaccines are rolled out globally and medical treatment for the infection improves. But Clark was uncertain as to when the important UK air routes with the UAE would reopen without quarantine and other restrictions that have kept that market depressed.

“My own view has been expressed fairly forcefully to the UK government and I know the UAE foreign ministry has been fairly assertive on this. There is no reason why the UAE should be on the red list at all in my view, particularly as the country is so well on top of the problem,” he said.

The UK has said it will fully reopen its economy later this month, on July 19, but was unsure whether this would mean full reopening of flights with the UAE.

“They’ve got to accept of course that if their citizens have been vaccinated and go anywhere, the reciprocal has got to be in place. I think with all that, the evidence will suggest that probably by August, September they will be more relaxed about entry and travel,” he said.

Clark also hopes that by the autumn Saudi Arabia would reopen the lucrative routes between Dubai and business centers in the Kingdom, which have been closed because of pandemic precautions.

He offered advice to the Kingdom’s policymakers as they plan the launch of a second international airline alongside Saudia.




An Emirates Airbus A380-842 grounded at Dubai international Airport after Emirates suspended all passenger operations amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, on March 24, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

“With anything like this, you’ve got to have the right people who know what they’re doing. They obviously need a large amount of cash to get things going, which I’m sure they have in Saudi Arabia. If they believe that an additional airline, perhaps operating a slightly different business model, will be necessary, I’m sure they’ll just get on with it,” he said.

Emirates has suffered financially during the pandemic lockdown, which grounded its fleet entirely for two months before a selective reopening from last summer. But Clark foresees an end to losses “probably within the next year or two”, although it is still unclear whether the airline will need more support from the Dubai government on top of the $3.1 billion it has already received.

“It’s anybody’s guess. Much will depend on what happens over the next six and nine months. The cash burn has slowed, and we are not in a cash critical situation at the moment. I am 100 percent convinced that the Dubai government will do what it takes to ensure that Emirates is financially secure,” he said.

He expected the Expo 2020 world exhibition that begins in Dubai in October to provide a “fillip” to the airline’s business.

The financial damage from the pandemic has again raised the issue of a merger between Emirates and Etihad, but Clark said this matter was “well above my pay grade.” He believes there will be more operational and backroom collaboration between the two airlines, but that did not imply a full-blown merger, which would require a deal between the governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.




Clark is adamant that the Emirates business model — providing global connectivity around the Dubai hub for an ever-increasing air travel market — would be effective “in perpetuity.” (AFP/File Photo)

The Airbus A380 wide-bodied plane was critical to Emirates’ expansion and profitability before the pandemic struck, but more than 100 of the planes have been parked since last year. There are plans to return some to service this summer, and Clark was confident about the aircraft.

Emirates has just taken delivery of two new A380s, and three more are being delivered in November, although the European manufacturer has said it will not build any more of the aircraft. “So, in the fullness of time of course it will have to go, but, in the meantime, we will work this aircraft, we will spend money on it, to refurbish it, to improve the product, make it even more attractive,” he said.

Clark, who has been with Emirates for three and a half decades, was due to retire last year, but agreed to stay on to deal with the pandemic. He declined to say whether a new departure date had been set.

“I’ve got a great bunch of guys I work with, and they’ve been working with me for the last 20 years. So, goodness me, the shareholder has got plenty of opportunity to select or do what they want to do with regard to the business. It’s not really relevant in the scheme of things whether I’m here or not,” he said.

He added that he hopes to stay on with the airline in an advisory capacity after he steps down from the presidency, and would like to focus on charitable activities like the Emirates Airline Foundation. But he did not rule out another big job in global aviation.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it if I was asked, but I would prefer to get involved in things other than the commercial world,” Clark said.

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Twitter: @FrankKaneDubai


SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum
Updated 27 sec ago

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum
  • SABIC and 10 peer companies will work together to share early-stage risks and co-invest in developing and upscaling LCETs

RIYADH: SABIC unveiled its global strategy towards carbon neutrality at the inaugural Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh on Saturday.

The event was attended by a high-level delegation from the company who joined international heads of state and global leaders of business, finance, and civil society to discuss Saudi Arabia’s vision for tackling environmental challenges.

SABIC chairman, Khalid Hashim Al-Dabbagh, said: “The SGI provides an ambitious framework aimed towards the shared goal of achieving a green future. SABIC is an active contributor to several strategic initiatives announced today, including those geared towards the production of hydrogen, reusing captured carbon, and recycling plastics.”
He added: “At SABIC, we recognize the power of collaboration to improve and protect the quality of life for the next generations. Sustainability is in our DNA and we’re pleased to contribute innovative technologies that will accelerate our journey towards carbon neutrality.”

SABIC’s Vice Chairman and CEO Yousef Al-Benyan joined an industry panel at the event to discuss the scaling up of new technologies and reasserted the company’s global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursue carbon neutrality. 

He said that “SABIC is uniquely contributing to the SGI goals and taking bold actions that support the Kingdom’s ambitions for the circular carbon economy. Our global carbon neutrality strategy reaffirms our commitment to the Paris Agreement goals and the continuous pursuit of solutions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

He added: “Many countries are competing for position as the world looks to broaden its energy mix and reduce carbon emissions. The foresight of Vision 2030, our abundant renewable resources and the innovative advances made by Saudi Arabian companies are making circularity a reality, placing the Kingdom in pole position to lead the new energy revolution.”

During the session, he outlined SABIC’s key circular innovations and collaborative efforts to transform energy intensive industry towards renewables, and being a founding member of the Low Carbon Emitting Technologies (LCET) initiative with the World Economic Forum. 

In this collaboration, SABIC and 10 peer companies will work together to share early-stage risks and co-invest in developing and upscaling LCETs.

SABIC is also partnering in the development of the world’s first large-scale chemical site to operate on 100 percent renewable power and, in a different project, developing solutions for electrically heated steam cracker furnaces which could reduce emissions by up to 90 percent.

Al-Benyan also highlighted some of the company’s accomplishments including the demonstration of the blue ammonia supply chain and the development of the world’s largest CO2 capture and purification plant. Based in Jubail and operational from 2015, the pioneering facility can process up to 500,000 megatons of CO2 per year into feedstock for industrial processes.

The company’s range of certified renewable polymers are providing an important bridge for the value chain to evolve from a linear to a circular economy and its landmark plastic chemical recycling processes contribute to CO2 reduction by preventing the incineration of plastic waste.


SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors
Updated 23 October 2021

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

RIYADH: The Saudi Green Initiative is a great opportunity to create new ways of managing our industries, said Mohammed Alibrahim, Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister for oil and gas.

Speaking at a panel discussed titled “Carbon-intensive industries: Transitioning fast, at scale” held in Riyadh on Saturday, he said the circular carbon economy is at the heart of the initiative.

He said before the launch of the green initiative, the Kingdom already embarked on an ambitious drive to improve energy efficiency in its industrial sector and achieved encouraging results. He said the chemicals, steel, and cement industries in the Kingdom have reduced emissions by about 4 million tonnes per annum.

The assistant minister said the new initiative offers several investment opportunities in recycling and waste management.

For example, he added, SABIC has already built a plant to capture 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide per annum, the gas is then purified and used to produce more chemicals and for many other purposes in different sectors, Alibrahim said.

He said the Saudi Green Initiative and the circle of carbon economy allow us to utilize carbon as a resource rather than looking at it as a problem.

“We have targets to product green hydrogen and blue hydrogen to convert it into blue ammonia, we already shipped ammonia to Japan last year and and we have a plan to expand on that.”

“We don’t want to focus on a certain type of technology.”

Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of ACWA Power, said: “The pathway is ultimately green hydrogen, the real need is energy and even that will be needing electricity, basic ingredient is already available.” 

He called on all stakeholders to create a supporting ecosystem.

“We can really transform industrial consumption when we bring hydrogen costs down to below $2 per kilo and it is achievable.”

Jasper Graf von Hardenberg, co-founder and group CEO of Daystar, US, said: “Saudi Arabia has bigger responsibility, it can become the world No.1 producer of green hydrogen.”

Morten Dyrholm, GSVP for MarCom, Sustainability and Public Affairs, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Denmark, said: “With this plan Saudi Arabia is placing itself at the center and we want to be part of this journey.”

“As companies we need to take responsibilities with targets of net zero emissions through production.”

“Now with all policies coming up in Saudi Arabia there are signals that the Kingdom is heading to become more sustainable.”


NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO
Updated 23 October 2021

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

The city of NEOM will be ready by 2024 to receive tourists and investors, the CEO of the project has announced.

“We spent two years transforming the vision into a strategy, as this strategy concerns all sectors of NEOM,” Nadhmi Al-nasr said in an interview with Asharq.

"We finished last year with strategies, then moved on to planning and implementation and now we have entered the implementation phase,” Al-nasr added.

NEOM is set to is located on the Red Sea coast in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, and is set to be totally powered by renewable energy sources.


Azerbaijan sees oil market stable, OPEC+ current output increase enough

Azerbaijan sees oil market stable, OPEC+ current output increase enough
Updated 23 October 2021

Azerbaijan sees oil market stable, OPEC+ current output increase enough

Azerbaijan sees oil market stable, OPEC+ current output increase enough

Riyadh: Azerbaijan believes OPEC+ is helping to stabilize the world’s oil market with its cautious decision to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day from November. 

Speaking to Arab News, the country’s energy minister warned that it is gas prices that are more volatile thanks to shortages of the energy source in Europe. 

Parviz Shahbazov said the members of OPEC+ — which includes Azerbaijan — are all in agreement about the restrained oil production rise, despite calls from the US to ramp up output.

He said that the reason “nobody talks about oil issues” is because “there is a balance in the market and this balance has been provided by OPEC+”.

He added: “It can be a little bit higher or lower, it is not so important for producing countries as well as for consuming countries because the most important thing is the stability in the oil market.”

The minister said the issues related to the increasing price of gas might continue past winter. 

“Most probably we will still have this crisis in winter time, I don’t know how severe will it be but as winter is coming and the weather is getting colder — the winter is going to be quite severe in Europe — there can be shortages of gas because gas storages are not filled before the winter season,” said Shahbazov.


Pakistan’s PM leaves for Saudi Arabia to attend ‘Middle East Green Initiative Summit’


Pakistan’s PM leaves for Saudi Arabia to attend ‘Middle East Green Initiative Summit’

Updated 23 October 2021

Pakistan’s PM leaves for Saudi Arabia to attend ‘Middle East Green Initiative Summit’


Pakistan’s PM leaves for Saudi Arabia to attend ‘Middle East Green Initiative Summit’


CAIRO: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan left for a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to attend the launch of the “Middle East Green Initiative Summit” in Riyadh, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement.

Khan left with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, and Malik Amin Aslam, PM’s adviser on climate change. 

“An initiative of the (Saudi) crown prince, the summit is the first of its kind in the Middle East region,” the statement said.

The Prime Minister Office said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had extended the invitation to the premier to attend the event on Oct. 25.

Khan, who made Pakistan a “Champions for Nature”, will share his perspective on the challenges faced by developing countries due to climate change, the statement said. 

He will also highlight Pakistan’s experience of launching “nature-based solutions” to address environmental challenges.