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Emirates sees global travel surge once China reopens

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Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul airline, said it’s expecting a surge in global travel on a scale beyond anything seen for many years once China fully reopens to overseas flights.

While most aviation markets are already “rebounding at pace,” the dropping of COVID-related curbs in the world’s second-largest economy will trigger a “tsunami” of bookings, Emirates President Tim Clark said on Wednesday.

Emirates boss Tim Clarke is bracing for a “tsunami” of bookings once China reopens.

Emirates boss Tim Clarke is bracing for a “tsunami” of bookings once China reopens.Credit:Ben Rushton

“At some point, China will unleash demand for travel the likes of which we will not have seen for a long, long time,” Clark said in Berlin. “The longer they press the cork down in the water, the greater the velocity of return.”

Emirates is heavily dependent on Asian traffic flows, with its business based around inter-continental flights that link the region with the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East via its hub in Dubai. Even so, the group was able to post a record first-half profit equivalent to more than $US1 billion ($1.5 billion) through September amid the upswing in travel after two years of COVID disruption.

Clark said Emirates flights to Asian destinations that have already reopened, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, are essentially full.

‘At some point, China will unleash demand for travel the likes of which we will not have seen for a long, long time. The longer they press the cork down in the water, the greater the velocity of return.’

Emirates boss Tim Clark

Capacity cuts at carriers including Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways and Garuda Indonesia will mean the industry could struggle to cope with pent-up demand for the next few years, he said.

For the time being, the situation on the ground in China remains tense as the government seeks to stamp out a surge in virus cases. China is seeing near-record numbers of COVID outbreaks, spurring major cities from Beijing to Shanghai to revert to broad restrictions on people’s movements.

Emirates is expecting an update on engine issues afflicting Boeing’s long-delayed 777X widebody on December 6, Clark said. A glitch discovered about a month ago halted testing, with a turbine sent to its manufacturer GE Aviation in Cincinnati for analysis.

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