Business travel will bounce back, says Emirates' Clark

Tim Clark said business travel will grow, not slow down, despite the COVID-19 impact

Boeing 777-300ER of Emirates Airline at Zurich airport.

Boeing 777-300ER of Emirates Airline at Zurich airport.

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Business travel survived the rise of the digital age in the 1990s, and so it will bounce back from COVID-19, the president of Emirates Airline said.

Tim Clark told CNN’s Think Big that the sector will bounce back and grow, saying he expected a return to cash positivity for his airline during 2021, followed by profitability in 2022 or 2023.

Asked if he thought the new normal might be 25 or 30 percent less than prior to the pandemic.

He said: “No, I would say the converse.”

While Zoom and Microsoft Teams have bridged the gap during travel restrictions in 2020, technology had not proved a sufficient replacement for business travel when it first arrived in the mid-1990s, he said, even though many expected it would be.

“The converse happened,” he said. “Between 1995 and 2015, 2018, the demand for business travel grew exponentially.

“As we get back to normal, as the economy is strengthened, as cash starts flowing back into the businesses that've been affected. You'll forget all of that, as they always do. We'll start [to] see business travel bounce back, and we'll see it grow. It will not slow down.”

The network’s business emerging markets editor John Defterios asked Clark about Emirates’ $5 billion swing from profitability in the latest quarter, and whether the carrier would get back to profitability in 2022.

“I think we will start seeing a rapid return to cash positivity during the course of '21. Again, the back half. I would say that in the financial year '22, '23, that's when you will see the airline go back to profitability and generating the cash that it needs to meet the obligations that it has, and we can then continue our plans for fleet renewal, for network expansion, with some of the new aircraft, the tools that we need to start opening up new points,” he said.

“That will happen in '22, '23, '24,” Clark continued. “So, all right, I may be out by six months, but in the past, we've generally got it right when we take an assessment what's likely to happen. And in the end, you plan for that, you action your whole company resource on that plan and hope that it comes as good as I think it will.”

(Writing by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria) 


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