Responding to a speaker at this week’s Ultratravel Forum — The Economist’s executive editor Daniel Franklin — Clark said “just in time” is a factor that travel businesses will continue to see and temporarily benefit from in 2023, Clark said. Saying that, this premium demand is effectively a permanent fixture.
“Demand for premium flying will continue. Yes, we’re in an imbalance right now, but my dashboard shows strong demand and many airlines won’t be able to meet that,” Clark said. “I’m not sure many airlines will get the full return, and they’re reluctant to buy new planes, so all of this is going to result in capacity staying the same and prices will reflect that and stay high for some time.”
Clark said he thought it was “unforgivable” for airlines to cut capacity at Heathrow this winter – as some in the industry have been predicting – simply because the airport was not equipped to handle the much-anticipated recovery demand.
“They should upgrade all the people they need. He [chief executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye] All these recruiting issues need to be dealt with; you have an obligation to get the airport up and running so people can travel,” Clark told attendees at the event at the Pan Pacific Hotel in London.
Clark added that the airline was “full until February/March” and had a high load factor since last October. “Our business ethos is to continue as best we can, and that’s what we’ve done. Since our wider launch in August, our premium economy product has been selling out, and customers have seen an increase in transaction volume, not from business volume. Or first volume reduction. The diversity of our network of course means changes based on geopolitical issues, but overall we are seeing tremendous pressure on our services.”
Outside the hospitality industry, Emirates is Dom Pérignon’s biggest customer, he added. “People are enjoying their time at the bar [on an A380],” He says.
Rejecting the idea of an imminent retirement, Clark, who has worked in Dubai for 37 years since the airline’s inception, said: “I will stay and rebuild. We are well-positioned and cash-rich, but still post-pandemic. There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to divest the debt, pay off the government and launch a bunch of new products. There are things I still want to do and I want our team to be able to do. I think the board wants me out in a box, But there are things I do still want to do. We never lost a dollar. I always knew we were doing the right thing.”
When asked how – with his aviation experience – he would “fix BA”, he suggested the airline had “lost its attention to detail”.
“It’s a matter of orientation, where do you want to go. People want to be well cared for, to have a good experience. If they have a good experience, people will fly with you again,” he said. “You can’t compromise by failing to fulfill a client’s wishes. Everything we do [at Emirates] Designed around customer experience, trust, people and product; that’s what you have to keep in mind. You are only as good as the people delivering your product, and you have to stay that way and stay ahead of everything. “
He said he made sure his team at Emirates remained focused on the wider landscape of hospitality, entertainment and technology to ensure they kept pace with the consumer trends the airline was offering. “It takes advantage of detail, and if you lose that, that’s a problem.”
Going forward, he said he has been assessing what premium flying would look like. “I’m still looking for suites that each have their own shower and toilet; we’re constantly looking at each element.”
He added that the A380 or similar wide-body flight options are not “over.” “When you look at the global demand in the next few years, we can see 9 or 10 billion people travel every year by 2030, how are they going to get in? Luxury travel companies have to think about this: How can your customers get to where they want to go? Places to go?”
He also said – despite what some might think or hope – until 2050, “fossil fuels will still be a mix of jet fuels”.