Dubai: Emirates airline will start returning the Dh15 billion ($4.1 billion) of bailout injected by the Dubai government during the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Dubai carrier’s Chairman.
The investment from the Dubai government will be returned in the form of dividends starting 2022, said Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, President, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and CEO of Emirates.
Sheikh Ahmed also said that Emirates may swing to a profit by the end of the current financial year. Emirates President Tim Clark had previously told media that the airline would achieve profitability only in 2023.
“We are doing good and we hope by the end of the financial year, we will be able to make (a) profit,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
The aviation head also said that Emirates is currently at 75-80 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity and can hit the 100 per cent mark by the end of 2022.
Emirates, the largest customer for the upgraded version of Boeing’s 777 mini-jumbo, said the delay in delivery may mean the airline may have to hold off entering a new market. Emirates is not pushing for compensation from the US plane-maker.
“We are not at this stage to talk about compensation, we understand this business,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “At the end of the day, you want an aircraft that will be very safe (and) people will be able to say, ‘Yes, I want to take that flight’.”
Boeing has delayed the delivery of its first 777-9 jet, a variant of its new 777X aircraft, by another year, and deliveries are now expected to start in 2025. The new version is facing certification delays in the wake of a safety crisis over the 737 MAX.
“Emirates has a fleet and aircraft to be put back to service – we have to go back to pre-pandemic years,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
Fuel price spike
Sheikh Ahmed said pent-up travel demand will continue to aid the airline’s recovery despite the spike in oil prices. The Chairman said it is “difficult” to predict the future direction of fuel prices given the current geopolitical situation.
“When you think about the supply of fuel and how expensive it is, it will always be reflected on the airline,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “It is not the first time that something like this happened – we saw oil prices at $140 a barrel years ago and we saw prices as low as $50-60”
World Cup boost
The upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be “good for everybody,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “We hope that it will be a successful event and that everybody in the region would be able to benefit from that”
Dubai’s hotel industry, which collectively has more than 130,000 rooms, will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the event, said Sheikh Ahmed.
Sheikh Ahmed reaffirmed that the refurbishment work at Dubai International airport’s northern runway will come to a finish on June 22. Several major airlines have shifted some of their flight operations to Dubai’s Al Maktoum starting from May 9.
Sheikh Ahmed said that the work will not have a major impact on the flow of passenger traffic from Dubai. “This is why we timed it between now and the peak of summer traffic, which is usually in the middle of June”
Touching upon the topic of US airlines accusing Emirates of unfair competition over the years, Sheikh Ahmed said: “They were complaining about us getting subsidies and we know all the major top airlines owned privately or otherwise went to their government”
“We were like anybody else when it came to the pandemic, we had to stop (our operations) completely,” he added