By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
WITH the ongoing vaccination program, Emirates is hoping to get back to profitability by 2022, a company official said.
“This is the worst crisis we’ve ever experienced in this industry. We still have a long way to go before we get back to profitability, and we hope this happens by 2022 as the global vaccination program’s impact really begins to kick in,” Emirates Philippines Country Manager Jaber Mohamed told BusinessWorld in a recent e-mail interview.
He said the airline is doing all it can to get back on a good footing.
“We are scaling up our cargo operations to meet global demand and controlling our costs, along with a host of other measures to be ready once recovery kicks in,” Mr. Mohamed noted.
Before the Philippine government revived the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces and enforced limited international arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Emirates was operating flights to Manila, Clark, and Cebu with 12 flights a week across all three cities. The airline was hoping to resume its pre-pandemic schedule of 25 flights to Dubai.
“Our objective right now is to maintain and grow load factors. In the longer term, we will continue to assess and carefully analyze the market, its performance and needs, which will show if there are more opportunities for us to further expand our presence,” Mr. Mohamed said.
“We still see a high volume of travelers on business and leisure trips and a healthy market share of overseas workers traveling to/through Dubai. Today, we serve over 90 global destinations, with safe and convenient connections via our Dubai hub for customers traveling between the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. The total number of destinations we are operating today represents close to 70% of our pre-pandemic network. We are also fully operating our 147-strong Boeing 777 fleet for both passenger and cargo missions,” he explained.
He said the pandemic has also greatly affected Emirates’ cargo business.
“In late March 2020, our passenger operations were completely suspended because of the pandemic. As a result, Emirates SkyCargo lost the majority of its cargo capacity as during normal operations, close to 70% of the total cargo is transported in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft,” he noted.
Emirates SkyCargo transported 0.8 million tons of cargo across its global network for the six-month period from April to September last year.
“Overall cargo volumes reduced by about 35% when compared to the same period the previous year,” Mr. Mohamed said.
“However, Emirates SkyCargo responded rapidly to changing circumstances and scaled up our operations by introducing cargo only flights on passenger aircraft, loading cargo in the cabin of the aircraft — both on seats and in overhead compartments as well as on the floor of aircraft with Economy Class seats removed. With these measures, we were still able to uplift 65% of previous year’s cargo volumes,” he added.
He also said travelers from the Philippines can look forward to a safe journey across every travel touchpoint with Emirates, given its health and safety measures.
“Once vaccines are rolled out at speed and scale, we will see a lot of movement, and demand is expected to increase,” Mr. Mohamed noted.
“We are continuously looking at business continuity activities as well as different ways to reduce our costs, enforcing fiscal discipline across the board, revenue management and smart network planning, among other initiatives. We are confident that through different initiatives that demonstrate our preparedness and adaptability, we will successfully recapture demand and revive our revenue growth,” he explained.