Disruption caused by the recent US travel restrictions had the most damaging impact on Emirates' business since 9/11, the airline's president Tim Clark has disclosed, but demand is slowly recovering now.
Speaking in Paris during last week's air show, Clark said the airline was "affected very badly" by restrictions enforced on US-bound flights requiring personal electronic devices (PEDs) to be checked, as well as the temporary ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. "Looking back, I don't know anything that hit us so bad apart from 9/11 and other bits and pieces," he says.
"But the markets are coming back to us now – we've reinstated the daily Orlando, and I'm watching every day the Bostons and the Seattles to see if we can put back the second one because the seat factors are in the low 90s," adds Clark.
The immediate impact of the disruption forced the Dubai carrier to temporarily ground 13 aircraft. Clark says about eight were immediately redeployed, largely to Africa where frequencies were restored to Abuja and Lagos.
"So at the moment I've got about five [Boeing 777s] on the ground, which we're actively looking to reactivate for things like the Hajj and Umrah [religious] charters."
He adds that there has been no impact on delivery schedules.
"It's restoring now, but taken together – the PED ban, the Muslim ban and the tonal aspects – it all had a clear effect," he says.
"We've had 31 very good years but we're going through a tough patch at the moment, actually beyond our control.
"If what happens in next three or four months [in terms of forward bookings] is as good as it looks, then we'll be ahead of perhaps where we were last year – providing we have no other traumas in the region which will affect demand."