Dubai state carrier Emirates Airline will serve all of its 143 destinations by the summer of 2021, with the frequency of flights depending on demand, the company’s chief operating officer said this week.
Travel was disrupted by widespread lockdowns as countries closed their borders in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus. Emirates currently flies to fewer than 80 destinations, according to its website.
But COO Adel al-Redha told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” that the airline will have flights to 143 cities next year. Emirates is one of the biggest long-haul carriers in the world.
“We can easily say, by summer (2021), we’ll be serving 100% of our network destinations,” he said.
That outlook is optimistic compared to Australia’s flag carrier Qantas. The airline expects only 50% of international operations to return by the middle of 2022, chief executive Alan Joyce said on “Squawk Box Asia.”
Only citizens, residents and their immediate family members can travel to Australia at this time, while Dubai opened its doors to tourists in early July.
Al-Redha said the relaxation of rules helped the airline, which is “definitely” seeing a positive trend. “If I compare our performance now with a month ago, we have almost doubled the number of passengers we have been carrying on board our aircraft.” He said the airline’s performance in July and August has been “better than what we have expected earlier.”
With regard to next year’s network and services, he said: “Obviously the ... frequency of flights per day will depend on the demand and some of the restrictions that we will need to unwind from some airports and some countries. But in terms of the airline network planning, by summer (2021) we’ll be covering 143 destinations.”
It is unclear when governments will allow international travel to resume, and the timeline likely depends on the containment of the virus situation and the availability of a vaccine.
The International Air Transport Association said global passenger traffic will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
— CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.