Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has described Covid-19 as "a glitch" which the Gulf airline will overcome, with demand for air travel returning sooner rather than later.
“The pandemic is a glitch,” Clark remarked during a presentation at online aviation forum CAPA Live overnight.
"We’ve had many of those in the past – perhaps not as significant and severe as this one for our industry – but nevertheless it’s a glitch. We will come through it and pick up again."
Clark's latest take on the roiling impact of the coronavirus, which has decimated the airline industry, was far more optimistic than in May, when he considered the pandemic was "a black swan event."
"I think that is what’s best describes it in my experience," he told UAE newspaper The National on May 5.
"If you go back to any of the major interventions, disruptions that the world has faced since the Second World War; if you took the aggregate of all of those, they wouldn’t be the equivalent to what has happened here. It’s hugely serious and it’s devastating for the business."
However, while Clark still expects things will "get worse before they get better", he told the CAPA Live audience that Emirates will be well-positioned for the inevitable recovery.
"I’m not one of these people who believes in the ‘new normal’," Clark suggested. "I believe demand will return in a very robust manner."
"As you roll forward, is there a place for network carriers of the size, scale and panache and brand of Emirates? Of course. I’m a firm believer in that – but I would say that wouldn’t I?" he smiled.
“Does it mean that people will not travel over major international hubs because they are concerned about the virus?"
"Once we have a vaccine in place and the world is sufficiently resilient or robust to deal with this and possibly more pathogens as they come at us, then I think memories are short and demand is strong and the role of the network carrier in many respects could be stronger then than it has been in the past."
Clark has previously said he hopes to have most of Emirates' A380s soaring by 2022 in a "superjumbo surge" as it rides and in some ways fuels the post-pandemic travel wave.
“The A380 has defined us,” Clark related at the time. “As demand returns, and given the slot availability at prime hubs, there will be a place for it. I’m hoping by April 2022, all our A380s will be flying again.”
At the same time, he sees the lower-cost ‘basic business class’ package – which provides the personal space of a business class seat without inclusions such as a chauffeur drive, lounge access or advance seat selection as becoming increasingly popular “because people will be prepared to pay more for greater distancing” on board.
Similar changes in thinking could also prove an added kickstart to Emirates’ all-new premium economy cabin, which the airline expected to launch this year but is now likely to be delayed until 2021.
The spacious seat – which Clark has described as a railway-style “sleeperette” design that will fully cradle the legs and feet, with a 10-inch recline and around 38 inches of pitch – has already been fitted to some A380s at Airbus' superjumbo facility in Toulouse.
Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that on Airbus A380s fitted with first class, the premium economy cabin will be located at the front of the lower deck with “as many as 56 seats.”
It will also be separate to economy class in order to provide “a degree of exclusivity... and not just a curtain, it'll be a proper cabin. We're aiming to make it a quiet zone, a comfortable zone.”