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Sun 10 May 2020 03:01 PM

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Emirates chairman warns it will be 18 months before aviation industry recovers

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum says Covid-19 has caused a 'sudden and tremendous drop' in demand for international air travel

Emirates chairman warns it will be 18 months before aviation industry recovers

The airline said it had transported just over 56 million passengers in the fiscal year, a drop of four percent year-on-year.

Chairman of Emirates Group Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum has conceded that it will take at least 18 months for travel demand to return to "a semblance of normality".

The Dubai carrier, the largest in the Middle East, posted AED1.1billion ($288 million) in net profit for the financial year ending March, up from $237m the previous year.

It was the 32nd straight year of profit for Emirates, which operates a fleet of 115 Airbus A-380 superjumbos and 155 Boeing-777 airliners.

Al-Maktoum said the airline had performed strongly in the first 11 months of the fiscal year.

"However, from mid-February things changed rapidly as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world," he said in a statement.

This caused "a sudden and tremendous drop in demand for international air travel as countries closed their borders and imposed stringent travel restrictions".

"We expect it will take 18 months at least, before travel demand returns to a semblance of normality," he added.

Emirates' profits were boosted by a fall in oil prices, causing a 15 percent decline in fuel costs to $7.2bn - around 31 percent of its operating costs.

However, the carrier saw its annual revenues decline by six percent to $25bn due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of a runway at Dubai airport last May.

The airline said it had transported just over 56 million passengers in the fiscal year, a drop of four percent year-on-year, while cargo had declined by a tenth to 2.4 million tonnes.

The strong US dollar eroded $272 million of profits, while intensive competition also affected the bottom line.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic paralysed the aviation industry, Emirates had slimmed its orders from both Airbus and Boeing, cutting tens of billions of dollars-worth of aircraft.

The government of Dubai, whose economy heavily depends on aviation and tourism, said last month it would inject capital into Emirates to help it cope with the impact of coronavirus.

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