Tim Clark
Tim Clark Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Tim Clark is not a man who minces his words.

When plane manufacturers delayed deliveries of aircrafts, Clark, the president of Emirates Airline, made his point clear to a crowd of journalists that he’s run out of patience and that manufacturers need to up their game. When negotiating deliveries of the A380 model with Airbus, Clark was relentless in demanding certain guarantees before ordering the jets, and left the Dubai Air Show, the largest aviation event in the region, without signing a deal.

Clark, an aviation veteran, was even an influence in Airbus’ A380 plane model, considering that Emirates is the largest customer for A380s. And when he vacates his seat as president of the airline in June 2020, there will undoubtedly be large shoes to fill.

Emirates confirmed on Tuesday that Sir Tim Clark, 70, will be stepping down from his role and retiring next year, but no successor has yet been named. Clark has been heading Emirates Airline since 2003, when he became the carrier’s president, but he joined Emirates long before, in 1985, as head of airline planning. He was also part of the team that founded Emirates.

Clark’s boss, Shaikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive officer of Emirates Airline and Group, has described him as “a genius” in what he does.


When news came out of his upcoming retirement, experts in the aviation industry started taking guesses at just who might succeed him. John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting in London and an aviation veteran himself, said in a tweet that he sees Clark as the “pre-eminent leader of the contemporary airline world.”

He described him as a “visionary, the brains behind Emirates, and a massive influence on Airbus’ launch of A380s and Boeing’s 777-3000ER.”

That also makes Clark – and Emirates Airline – a key factor in the suspension of Airbus’ A380 line. The European manufacturer said in February this year that it will stop building its A380 superjumbos after Emirates cut its order for the model.

And it’s not just A380s and 777s. Clark has been a key voice in discussions on Boeing’s upcoming 777X model, which is yet to be launched. With Emirates being the launch customer for the 777X, Clark has been commenting on the new model and Emirates’ plans for it, including now-tweaked plans to launch a Premium Economy class on the 777X.

So when Boeing delayed the launch of the 777X, Clark, again, did not mince his words.

When asked by Gulf News in September when he expects to receive the first 777X, Clark said, “That’s a good question! You need to ask Boeing that. We have 150 [aircraft] in contract. The first one should have been arriving in June of next year, but I would suggest quite strongly that it won’t.”

With Boeing facing delays in its 777X line on top of its crisis with the now-grounded 737 Max, an irked Clark told reporters he is not prepared to take delivery of aircraft that don’t meet specifications.

And it’s not just Boeing. Clark said that Emirates won’t take any aircraft without cast-iron guarantees of trouble-free performance, Bloomberg reported.

And as Clark’s time as the Emirates boss comes to an end in six months, the timing may just spare him from what he expects to be a tough few years. Clark earlier said that with diminishing demand and lower economic growth, he doesn’t “see any green shoots.”