By Yousef Saba and Lisa Barrington
DUBAI (Reuters) – Emirates Airline President Tim Clark said on Tuesday that new Saudi airlines and the expansion of regional competitors will not affect the Dubai-based carrier, adding that he sees resilient demand, especially for leisure travel.
A number of Emirates’ competitors, such as Air India and Saudia, have expanded their fleet and offerings recently, and new Saudi airlines such as Riyadh Air, NEOM Airlines, and low cost carrier Flynas have launched.
“Does that affect us? No, I don’t believe so. If Emirates continues to do what it’s always done well … then as long as it’s good, people will use it,” Clark told a tourism conference.
“In the case of Saudi airlines, which are now going to be three – Riyadh, NEOM, and Saudia, this is going to be very interesting to watch,” he added at the event in Dubai.
“If they’re going to spend trillions of dollars, it’s great for the area, it’s great for the aviation industry. And good luck to them,” he said, later adding “bring it on”.
Regarding Emirates’ own fleet, Clark said there were still some issues getting its remaining Airbus A380s flying after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had 86 flying last year and we need to get another 20-30 in the air as soon as we can,” said Clark, noting supply chain issues were weighing on the refurbishment process.
Clark said Emirates has 165 aircraft on order with “probably more coming”.
He said new Airbus A350 passenger jets will likely be flying in August next year, with 50 delivered over a two-and-a-half year compressed delivery schedule.
“We need them as quickly as possible,” he said.
Clark said he hoped Emirates would start to get its long-delayed Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777-9s between July and October 2025. In the meantime, the company is refurbishing its old 777s.
“We can never be held at the mercy of the supply chain or manufacturer … So if the 777 is late again we still have something in the armoury to cover all eventualities.”
The aircraft supply chain would come “to some degree of normality” around the middle of 2024, Clark said, adding that air travel demand was resilient and that leisure travel was going to see a big uptick in the next five to ten years.