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Emirates on track to restore 70% capacity by year-end

Dubai-based airline Emirates is on track to restore 70 percent of its capacity by year-end, its chairman said Monday, insisting that countries cannot “close down forever”.

The aviation industry, along with tourism hotspots, are pinning their hopes on the crucial summer season, despite ongoing tight restrictions to combat coronavirus in much of the world.

“I’m confident that governments around the world, they will not be able to close down forever and they must open,” said the carrier’s chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

“I’m optimistic, I think summer is coming, a lot of people who stopped travelling for the last year and a half, they want to travel, they want to go back to a certain normality,” he told reporters at a tourism exhibition in Dubai.

Sheikh Ahmed said that after a “very tough year”, the carrier was “on track” to return to 70 percent of its pre-coronavirus capacity by the end of 2021.

Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, laid off some 25 percent of its staff and slashed its sprawling network at the height of the crisis last year.

Sheikh Ahmed said the carrier was in talks to reverse that process and hire more staff, in anticipation of an industry recovery, although the timeline would depend on the pace of recovery.

The airline has resumed passenger flights to 120 destinations, about 85 percent of the routes it flew to before the pandemic.

Emirates received $2 billion in state aid to weather the crisis and Sheikh Ahmed did not rule out another cash infusion.

“Our cashflow today… is good so far but… we have to assess it month by month,” he said.

Emirates, which at one point operated 115 Airbus A380 superjumbos — most of which are now grounded — is considering swapping its orders for Boeing 777X jets for smaller 787 Dreamliners, the chairman said.

“It’s always a possibility because we are always assessing our fleet requirement,” he said, adding that the carrier was “in dialogue with Boeing on the future fleet and what will happen to the 777X”.

Boeing has pushed back delivery dates for its new 777X amid the downturn in commercial plane travel.