Iata AGM: Emirates airline 'will return to profitability in 2022-23'

Carrier will restore 100% of its pre-pandemic network by mid-2022, president Tim Clark says

Emirates airline president Tim Clark in a panel discussion at the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting in Boston, the US, on Monday. Photo: Reuters
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Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, expects to return to profitability in the 2022-2023 fiscal year as travel restrictions ease and passenger demand recovers, the carrier's president Tim Clark said.

The airline will turn a moderate profit in the "back end" of the next financial year, barring any new developments, Mr Clark said at the International Air Transport Association's annual general meeting in Boston on Tuesday.

Emirates's fiscal year begins in April and it usually reports first-half earnings in November.

"I'm sure the business will really start to generate the cash that it needs and go profitable during the course of 22-23, moderately so," Mr Clark said.

"You'll never at this point go back to the levels that we were a few years ago, but we'll get there eventually.

"I would think probably the back end of the next financial year it will be a different story, unless something else happens."

Emirates also expects to narrow its half-year loss for the six months ending on September 30, he said.

"We've reduced the loss over this time last year by a significant percentage; goodness me, that was Herculean," Mr Clark said.

"With the opening of borders, we've seen a major kick-in of income, of demand, so in the second half of the financial year we're looking to see a much greater improvement as to the first half."

The airline plans to restore 100 per cent of its pre-pandemic routes by the middle of next year, before revisiting its pre-crisis growth plans in the 2022-2023 financial year, he said.

Emirates currently flies to more than 120 cities, representing 90 per cent of its pre-Covid network.

"Once that happens, we will then progress through the second half of 2022 through 2023," Mr Clark said.

"We're restoring our network to its former glory and doing all the fleet replacements, renewals, expansion beyond that to try and get us back to a larger network, along the plans that we had set for ourselves prior to the pandemic kicking in."

He remained bullish that "demand for air travel will restore itself" as people and corporates travelled to meet after 18 months of restrictions.

The airline's bookings to countries that have reopened their borders, such as the US and the UK, have been "exponential", Mr Clark said.

The week-long Dubai Airshow, starting on November 14 and coinciding with Expo 2020 Dubai, will be the first major international airshow in the past two years.

In past years it has been a place for negotiations between airlines and plane makers for huge aircraft orders.

"I think it's going to be well attended," Mr Clark said. "It's going to have a lot of aircraft on the static displays, and I think the manufacturers are quite keen to make something of it.

"I know the Dubai government are working very hard to make it a memorable occasion, of course, as they always do."

He criticised Boeing for continuing delays in its 777X wide-body programme, which is disrupting the airline's "meticulous" fleet plans that stretch well into 2038.

"We need to have a lot of grown-up discussion as to the likelihood of deliveries along the timelines that they say they're going to make," Mr Clark said, looking forward to talks at the Dubai Airshow.

"Now whether or not that that that comes to a conclusion in five weeks' time, I don't know."

Emirates is seeking more clarity from the US plane maker on when it plans to deliver the jet, which has been delayed for more than two years since its original debut date of June 2020.

Mr Clark was later scheduled to meet Boeing executives during the Iata event.

The 777X has been delayed several times and Boeing previously said the aircraft would be due for delivery in 2023.

Mr Clark said he did not know when the delivery date of the first 777-9 would be, nor if the smaller 777-8 variant of the twin-engine jumbo jet would be built.

"They need to sit back and rethink at the board level what they're doing, how they're doing it, what has gone wrong," he said.

Updated: October 07, 2021, 2:31 PM