Adnan Kazim, Emirates
Adnan Kazim, Emirates Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Border closures and travel restrictions are a thing of the past for the global aviation industry preparing for a comeback after a two-year pandemic, according to a top Emirates airline official.

“The world has gotten away from that thinking,” said Adnan Kazim, Chief Commercial Officer at Emirates, speaking on the sidelines of a media event. “Some countries require people to wear masks and that is a good way to minimize the spread. But that does not mean the world will go backwards.”

Reporting: John Benny | Editing: Sonia Shah | Video: Clint Egbert

Kazim’s remarks come as China – one of the world’s largest aviation markets – is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, particularly in Shanghai. “The impact of Omicron and various other variants that came out is not major, and the cases in UAE are quite low,” said Kazim. “Based on that optimistic view, we have moved forward and ramped up our capacity.”

Emirates airline has gone back to full pre-pandemic flight frequencies to all its destinations in India. The move came on the back of India’s decision to restore international flights to and from the country. “We are reviewing other places for further expansion,” said Kazim.

Running at full

The Emirates’ official said that the Eid break had resulted in a surge in flight bookings from UAE and other Islamic countries. “This is helping boost traffic to places like Seychelles, Mauritius, and - we're also seeing demand into Jordan and Asia.

“The UK is taking a big share of that demand and US flights are also quite full,” said Kazim. “Flights to India are standing at almost 100 per cent seat load factor.”

The airline announced that it will significantly ramp up its Middle East flight capacity between April 28 and May 8. “With Eid Al Fitr approaching and more travellers planning to take to the skies, Emirates is responding by offering more flights across seven cities in the GCC and Middle East,” said Emirates in a statement on Tuesday.

UK operations

Airports in the UK have been seeing long check-in queues and widespread flight cancellations. At the heart of the problem are severe staff shortages, which is an after-effect from the massive layoffs during the pandemic.

Kazim said Emirates’ UK operations had not been impacted from the disruptions. “We have handled 110 weekly flights between Dubai and UK and they are operating as normal.”

2023 recovery chances

Emirates will reach full recovery in terms of capacity and network by 2023, said Kazim. The airline, operating at 70 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity, will grow to 80 per cent in the summer and to 85 per cent in the winter, said Kazim, adding that Emirates will operate its full pre-pandemic network by 2023.

“We are quite optimistic that this year will be a good year for us and we're aiming to be back to being profitable as an airline,” said Kazim. “As far as last year's performance (is concerned), it's way above expectations.”

Emirates' revenue surged 81 per cent to Dh24.7 billion in the first-half of 2021. The airline cut losses to Dh5.7 billion from Dh14.1 billion in H1-2020.