The Russia-Ukraine war could have long-term consequences for the airline industry that are more significant than those resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, according to Emirates Airline president Tim Clark.
Speaking during the World Government Summit in Dubai on 29 March, Clark suggested that the geopolitical outcomes of the war and the isolation of a large market like Russia will have serious ramifications for civil aviation.
That comes after a pandemic that he describes as “probably the most traumatic thing that’s hit the airline business and the global economy” since the Second World War.
“The Ukrainian issue… is possibly more serious in terms of civil aviation and other areas in the global economy than the global pandemic,” Clark states.
“From an airline point of view… going forward with what I would call the economic iron curtain moving to the east and the exclusion of Russia in the future [with the] civil aviation power that it has, is going to cause a tectonic shift in the way airlines and the aviation business goes about its business.”
Among the impacts of the war seen so far in the airline sector, uncertainty surrounds the status of hundreds of aircraft leased to Russian carriers, overflights of airspace in European region have been severely restricted for swathes of operators, and manufactures have stopped sending spare aircraft parts to Russian operators as part of government-imposed sanctions.
In broader economic terms, however, Clark has some hope that the impact of the Ukraine war could be relatively short-lived.
“If this gets sorted sooner rather than later, the pressure of globalisation, the pressure of demand from multiple sectors within the global economy will be such that we can get through this,” he says.
But Clark cautions that “the longer it goes on, the more difficult it becomes to deal with”, adding: “Nobody’s going to win on this and everybody will suffer if they’re not careful, not least of which are the people in Ukraine.
”The global community has to find a resolution.”
In the meantime, Emirates continues to fly to Russia, unlike many of its peers.
“So long as our owner requires us to fly there, we will continue,” Clark states.