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Passenger numbers will recover in 6 months, but won't be at pre-COVID-19 levels: Sheikh Ahmed

Dubai: Emirates airline Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum expects passenger traffic to recover in the next six months - but added that he doesn't see it going back to pre-pandemic levels.

"It has been a tough year for all the airlines," the carrier head told a group of reporters at the Arabian Travel Market event. Emirates had earlier said it would need to raise more cash following a $2 billion cash injection from the Dubai Government last year.

Al Maktoum said it would depend on "how we do this year and how the market opens." He added the airline had no plans to issue bonds.

We cannot fix a date that can be applied around the world

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum on the relaunch of services to the Indian Subcontinent

Fleet changes

"We are reassessing our plan in terms of fleet requirement [and] what should be really pushed back because we have to deal with a market that really goes back and forth," he said. Sheikh Ahmed indicated that Emirates may swap some of its orders for 777Xs with smaller 787s.

India, Pakistan routes

The resumption of travel to the Subcontinent will depend on how the different governments are dealing with the situation, said Sheikh Ahmed. "We cannot fix a date that can be applied around the world," he said, emphasizing on the need for faster vaccination programmes. "Health authorities, airport capacity, slots time are all an obstacle" to the resumption of air travel.

UK travel

"I hope it will happen soon - it is unfair with the number of British people living in the UAE," said Sheikh Ahmed. The opening of air routes between UK and UAE "is a must". The Dubai-London route was the busiest in the world before a spike in COVID cases led the British government to shut it down.

Working with flydubai

The Emirates chief said that Emirates would work more closely with flydubai, but added that they will continue to operate as two separate brands. "The focus is now on doing things the right way... putting more flighs together (and) serving different markets."