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Emirates to recover 70% of its capacity 'by winter', chief commercial officer says

Dubai-based airline is bullish on travel recovery ahead of the Expo 2020 event to be hosted by the emirate in October.

Emirates plans to recover 70 per cent of its capacity by the "winter season" as it banks on Expo 2020 Dubai, Covid-19 vaccination campaigns and relaxed restrictions on international travel.

The Dubai airline is boosting its capacity as it rebuilds its global passenger network, said chief commercial officer Adnan Kazim yesterday.

It currently serves 120 destinations, about 85 per cent of its pre-pandemic network.

“We already have a plan to get back to almost 70 per cent of our capacity by winter ’21," said Mr Kazim.

“The future will be much brighter in terms of the recovery and things will look better. We are particularly aiming for major events happening in Dubai such as Expo 2020 and that is exactly [why] we are mapping capacity and the network to meet that requirement for the Expo to be a successful event.”

Mr Kazim did not specify the airline's current capacity levels. He was speaking at a press conference before the four-day Arabian Travel Market exhibition that will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from May 16 – the first time in 18 months that an international travel trade event is attended in-person.

The pandemic, the worst crisis in the history of aviation, hit the airline's operations after countries around the world introduced travel restrictions to curb its spread.

Governments shut their borders and airlines grounded their aircraft, leading to job losses or furloughs for millions of workers in the travel and tourism sectors.

Cargo demand helped Emirates to begin rebuilding its network and it currently operates all of its 151 Boeing 777 jets, said Mr Kazim.

The airline plans to ensure an additional 30 to 40 Airbus A380s return to service over the summer but this will depend on air travel demand, he said.

It operated a fleet of 118 Airbus A380s before the pandemic-induced slowdown grounded most of them.

Mr Kazim expects a good level of forward bookings for July and August, with the "visiting friends and family" segment poised to register healthy demand.

There is also strong demand for premium travel, particularly in business class, as safety-conscious travellers seek more distance during flights, he said.

Inside Emirates Premium Economy

Dubai is optimistic about attracting business travellers and holidaymakers this year on the back of the world fair it is hosting in October and celebrations around the UAE's 50th anniversary, its tourism chief said.

"We're very optimistic about the numbers for the year because we have the Golden Jubilee celebration for the UAE's formation and more importantly, Expo in October, which should give us a great platform with so many events," Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Tourism, said.

The emirate attracted 1.26 million overseas visitors in the first quarter of 2021 and hosted 5.5 million visitors last year, 67 per cent less than in 2019, he added.

Forecasts for the number of annual international visitors for 2021 is "a little bit up in the air" as they depend on markets permitting international travel, he said.

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