Iata AGM: Business travel to bounce back by end of 2022, Emirates' Tim Clark says

Covid-19 crisis likely to be 'history' by 2023, Dubai airline chief says

Emirates airline president Tim Clark in a panel discussion at the International Air Transport Association's AGM in Boston, the US, on Monday. Photo: Reuters
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Demand for business travel is expected to rebound by the end of 2022, Emirates' president Tim Clark said.

"I believe business travel will come bouncing back by the end of next year," Mr Clark said during a panel at the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting in Boston on Monday.

Demand will be "very, very strong" in 2023, 2024 and 2025, he said.

Mr Clark also expected the Covid-19 crisis to end by 2023, barring the emergence of any new virus variants.

"I would say that probably by the end of next year and certainly into 2023, this will be history, unless there's another variant," he said.

The bullish forecast on business travel is significant because analysts expect it to recover more slowly than leisure trips.

Dubai, a finance and trade centre in the Middle East, reopened its borders to international travellers in July 2020. The UAE has one of the fastest Covid-19 vaccination campaigns worldwide.

Mr Clark said the pandemic was the biggest disruptor in the past 70 years.

"Anything that remotely resembles what's happened in the last two years is unlikely to happen again," he said.

The airline industry will emerge better from the crisis as companies' operations, networks, fleets and processes have come under the microscope, Mr Clark said.

Airlines' environmental goals dominated the conversation during the three-day Iata meeting, with members adopting a resolution to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Mr Clark said airlines must manage expectations about the time, cost and effort it will take by all industry stakeholders to reach climate change targets.

"We've all signed up for this fantastic resolution but the journey to get there ... whether it be financial, technological, logistical, is hugely difficult," he said.

Using sustainable aviation fuels and having oil companies on board with cheaper, increased production is not enough to achieve these goals.

"People are expecting us now by the end of this decade to take out 40 per cent of our carbon emissions ... they must be in La-La land if they're thinking we can do that," Mr Clark said.

"It's nice to do but you can over-promise and create aspirations that people are thinking we're going to have electric A380s."

Reaching these climate change goals must be a joint effort between the airlines and other partners, he said.

"We've got to bring people back into reality and say there's a journey you have to go on," Mr Clark said.

"The airline industry cannot do it on its own. The stakeholder involvement is huge and the costs are phenomenal."

Updated: October 05, 2021, 7:06 AM