A shortage of slots at major airports and strong consumer demand are underpinning the return of the Airbus A380 into Emirates’ fleet, according to the president of the Middle Eastern carrier.
Speaking during the World Government Summit in Dubai today, Tim Clark says that “major issues” with slot availability at airports including London Heathrow, Hong Kong International, Sao Paulo and Sydney are unlikely to be solved in the near term, making larger aircraft strategically attractive.
“So long as governments do not invest in airports to create more capabilities, the slot issue is going to become far more acute in the next five or 10 years,” he predicts.
With airport balance sheets “shot to pieces” during the pandemic, those investments are unlikely to be forthcoming, in Clark’s view.
“That’s why we’re keeping the A380 flying for as long as we can, because those slots are going to be highly attractive,” he states.
Moreover, Clark recalls the A380 producing “about 80% of our profits” pre-pandemic and expresses confidence that it can play a similar role in the post-Covid environment, amid “a resurgence of demand across all the countries on our network and the segments within those”.
Today, Emirates is “very cash positive, things are going well, we have all these [A380s] flying, and they are going to be more unique going forward”, he says, noting that ”consumer demand for these airplanes is astronomical”.
As a result, Emirates has the confidence to invest in its superjumbo fleet.
“We’re going to refurbish them, refresh them, put more innovation into them, they are going to be something really special over the next 10 or 15 years,” Clark states, adding: “Watch this space.”
Asked whether the A380 is still viable in an era of higher oil prices, Clark observes that Emirates has dealt with oil at $140/barrel in the past.
“We are just going to have to manage through it,” he says. “We will.”
Cirium fleets data shows Emirates has 71 Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380s in service today, with 50 examples in storage.