Emirates President Tim Clark is one of the brightest guys in the airline industry. He is one of the main people behind Emirates as we know it today, because he built the airline from the ground up. I don’t think there’s a person who has a better understanding of global aviation than he does.
I could listen to Clark talk for hours. Whenever I fly Emirates (remember when flying was a thing?!) I always enjoyed listening to the “Emirates World” radio channel, and in particular the interviews with Clark. I think I’ve probably heard the same interview a dozen times.
Clark was supposed to retire in June 2020, though obviously this isn’t an ideal time to leave a company you care about. It looks like he may now stay on a bit longer to make sure the airline continues moving in the right direction.
Tim Clark turned Emirates into one of the most well known airline brands
The National published an interview with Tim Clark this week, which is worth a read. I wanted to briefly hit on just a few of the highlights that I found most insightful:
- Had the laws of supply and demand and survival of the fittest worked, Clark believes 85% of airlines would have gone out of business
- Clark is happy we have seen as much state aid globally as we have, because otherwise we would have seen a huge number of mergers, and “there wasn’t room for more consolidation”
- This is a “black swan” event for the airline industry, and the impact of this is worse than the aggregate of all challenges the airline industry has faced since World War II
- Clark believes that for the next year or two, or perhaps even longer, demand for air travel is going to be tempered; even when it recovers, he expects we’ll be looking at an industry that’s 20-30% smaller than before COVID-19
- Clark has “written off” this summer, and doesn’t expect much of anything; he certainly doesn’t think that demand will “come back like a tsunami”
- Clark acknowledges that “the A380 is over,” but also says that “the A350 and 787 will always have a place,” and while they might not be ordered soon, when demand does come back they will be a better fit than ever before (nothing here is a surprise, since we knew the A380 was “dead,” since production was already scheduled to end in 2021)
- Clark’s view is that he wouldn’t be surprised if the virus disappeared completely by the end of the summer, but if it doesn’t, then a vaccine is the only way that international travel will return in any substantial way
- He believes that by next summer we’ll have widespread vaccinations, and that things could start to return to normal at that point
Clark thinks this summer should be written off
There’s nothing terribly surprising here, but I do always enjoy hearing Clark’s perspective on things. He’s not only brilliant, but he’s also a straight shooter, unlike many other airline CEOs (“we don’t need to offer premium economy, because our economy is better than premium economy on most airlines”)…
What do you make of Clark’s perspective?