Many airlines have been saying that air travel won’t fully recover until 2023 or 2024. And even then the world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, has been on the way out – with airlines rushing to retire their superjumbo. And some analysts have declared an end to true first class service as a result of the pandemic.
Emirates, though, says not so fast. Their President Tim Clark – who was supposed to have retired in June but-for the pandemic – sees literally all of the airline’s Airbus A380s returning to the sky by April 2022.
And while airlines around the world are cutting back on service to save money, as they load up their balance sheets with debt, he believes Emirates will restore all of their services and amenities. That means Airbus A380s will operate their business class bars, and the A380 first class shower spas will become available again, too.
“The A380 has defined us,” Clark tells The Times. “As demand returns, and given the slot availability at prime hubs, there will be a place for it. I’m hoping by April 2022, all our A380s will be flying again.”
…And while the first class showers and the business class bar are currently roped off, Clark maintains those signature touches of the Emirates’ premium travel experience would also return, promising “we’ll restore the full product.”
Emirates has 115 Airbus A380s. Those offer a lot of capacity when flying is at such low levels. And Emirates is an international airline, they aren’t flying domestic routes which have fewer restrictions around the world. Their on board bars are designed precisely not to social distance. And showers, while in normal times cleaned between each use, are both an expensive amenity (carrying all that water means burning fuel) and represents use of the same space by multiple passengers.
To bring the A380 and its amenities back means air travel recovers, and social distancing is no longer required to fly.
There are real reasons to be optimistic about the world, despite the difficult place we’re in currently with the spread of SARS-CoV-2. We’re going to get through this and even if the virus itself continues to circulate in some form, like past pandemics this one will pass as an all-consuming challenge.
- COVID-19 may just become less dangerous, through better treatment protocols and therapeutics. Regeneron’s antibody cocktail that may keep people with close contacts with COVID-infected persons from getting the disease, and may be effective as treatment as well, is entering phase 3 trials. Furthermore the virus has already mutated to become more infectious, it may become less lethal as well (viruses don’t spread as well when they kill their hosts so strains that are less deadly tend to be the ones that propogate most).
- A vaccine is increasingly likely to be available during the first part of 2021. It won’t be 100% effective, and not everyone will get it, but it should be enough to bring us out of the crisis.
- The virus will simply run its course. 30% of New York City may have had the virus already. Here in Texas we’re likely around 7%. As bad news as rapid doubling times are, we could reach herd immunity by early winter.
Some changes to consumer preferences may persist after the pandemic. Sir Tim Clark sees a greater demand for business class, because people will want more space, having come to value distance from other passengers. That’s good news for premium airlines.