UAE air­lines say years needed to re­store de­mand

Kuwait Times - - Business -

DUBAI: Top ex­ec­u­tives of Emi­rates and Eti­had, two of the Mid­dle East’s big­gest air­lines, have said pas­sen­ger de­mand may not re­turn to pre-coro­n­avirus cri­sis lev­els un­til 2023. About 85 per­cent of the world’s air­lines could face fi­nan­cial dis­tress by the end of the year with­out govern­ment aid, Emi­rates Pres­i­dent Tim Clark and Eti­had CEO Tony Dou­glas told a video con­fer­ence hosted by the US-UAE Busi­ness Coun­cil last week.

Clark and Dou­glas re­it­er­ated their be­liefs that un­til an ef­fec­tive vac­cine for the COVID-19 res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease be­comes widely avail­able, how pas­sen­gers fly will be dif­fer­ent, a state­ment by the coun­cil said.

Last­ing re­stric­tions like 14-day quar­an­tines, test­ing, and so­cial dis­tanc­ing will im­pact de­mand and op­er­a­tions, they said. The air­lines could not be reached for com­ment. Emi­rates and Eti­had, which op­er­ate fleets of over 370 air­craft, a ma­jor­ity of them wide-bod­ied, have grounded their op­er­a­tions in March and are serv­ing lim­ited out­bound flights to take repa­tri­ate for­eign­ers from the United Arab Emi­rates. Dubai is ex­pected to re­sume wel­com­ing tourists by July, more than four months af­ter halt­ing the vi­tal sec­tor due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, an of­fi­cial said. The re­turn how­ever will be grad­ual and could be de­layed un­til Septem­ber, He­lal al-Marri, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of Dubai’s Depart­ment of Tourism and Com­merce Mar­ket­ing, told Bloomberg TV last week. A ma­jor­ity of global air­lines have also stopped op­er­a­tions due to shut­downs im­posed to counter the spread of the novel coro­n­avirus.

The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion has re­peat­edly called on gov­ern­ments to pro­vide gen­er­ous aid to air­lines.

IATA said on April 23 that air traf­fic in the Mid­dle East and North Africa is set to plum­met by more than half due to the virus cri­sis. It also said that MENA air­lines’ rev­enues are fore­cast to slump by $24.5 bil­lion this year com­pared to 2019. The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a UN agency, said last month that the pan­demic could mean 1.2 bil­lion fewer air pas­sen­gers world­wide by Septem­ber. IATA has urged gov­ern­ments to of­fer air­lines di­rect fi­nan­cial sup­port, loans and tax re­lief. —AFP

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