United Kingdom

Emirates may put A380 fleet back in the air sooner than expected  

Emirates could put the world's biggest fleet of Airbus A380s back in the air by early 2022 after forecasting a sharp recovery in demand for air travel next year.

Progress on the production and transportation of coronavirus vaccines should be evident by the second quarter of next year, president Tim Clark told Bloomberg TV.

That would trigger a release in pent-up demand “across all segments” led by those unable to travel during the pandemic, he said.

“I can see demand for travel moving at pace. My own view, and it’s always an optimistic view, is by end of next calendar year or the first quarter of 2022 we’ll have all our A380s flying.”

The show of confidence from the veteran airline executive contrasts with a deteriorating outlook for airlines facing the worst crisis the industry has suffered.

Lobby group IATA said on Tuesday that airlines carriers will lose $157bn this year and next because of the pandemic’s devastating impact on travel.

Demand for Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul carrier, has all but dried up on its key routes. The Dubai-based airline is the largest customer of the A380, whose sheer size has made it particularly unviable. The cost of storing and maintaining the fleet contributed to a $3.8 billion loss in the six months through September.

“What we have to face and continue to face is the carrying cost of the A380 fleet, which is very expensive for us,” mr Clark said.

The carrier said earlier this month it has used some of the idled superjumbos for cargo, while a handful of others are flying passengers, but most of the 115-strong fleet remains grounded.

Mr Clark has previously said the development of a vaccine would be key to the A380’s return to wide use. Emirates will receive three of the jumbos by the end of the year, at least one of which will have a premium economy cabin, the executive said. That will leave five more to be delivered later.

The introduction of vaccines will still require airlines and governments to set rules about whether proof of an inoculation will be needed to fly, and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said his airline would make it a “necessity”.

It’s still “early days” to take a position on that, Mr Clark said. “It is likely the countries themselves will decide on requirements.”

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