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World Aviation Festival: ‘No clouds on the horizon’, says Emirates boss

Emirates boss Sir Tim Clark says he “sees no clouds on the horizon” for the prospects for the aviation sector despite rising fuel prices.

The chief executive of the Gulf carrier told this week’s World Aviation Festival that the industry has managed in the past with fuel above $100.

“It’s what it will do to the global economy,” he said, “we saw in 2008/09 the global economy could not take it.

“If we get to $150 the global economy will start to falter and we will have a massive global micro-economic problem.

“This industry is highly vulnerable in many respects, not just fuel, but the changing nature of demand and sometime questionable government policies of the countries we fly to.

“We get through that, adapt and move the business on. When I look at seat load factors I do not see any weak areas yet.”

Clark said there is “quite good demand, but it is fragile” and he added “injecting” high fuel prices into the global economy will cause a “big problem” and people doing that “will realise it’s fragile”.

He added China, which Emirates serves with 35 flights on A380s which are all flying full, needs to be more opened up both in terms of foreign travel and its own carriers.

With COP28 coming up in Dubai later this year, Clark was asked about the sustainability agenda. “Everyone has to be very careful we do not fall into the green washing situation,” he said.

“We have to be very careful to deliver the message as it is.” Clark added that the airline industry is at the behest of other sectors like tech that are developing the SAF and e-SAF solutions.

He said moving to e-SAF will require a lot more electricity generation and that means investing in reliable nuclear generation.

The overall cost of decarbonising the global economy will run into the trillions of dollars, he added. “Some how we are going to have to find a way to do it.

“I believe that the tech exists, but it’s not going to be on us as airlines to do it. In the end we have to make a living.”

Clark said he hoped that “sense will prevail” as governments bid to achieve net zero by 2050.

“When the iPhone 15 came out last week there were riots all over the world to get it. The global market continues to be avaricious, it’s very aspirational. People want things.

“Do I see demand for air travel falling? No, in fact I see it increasing. The population of the world continues to grow. As long as it grows I see demand rising for all things.”

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