Emirates President Sir Tim Clark talks about his 50-year career, the Emirates blueprint and where he believes the air transport industry is heading.
Clark is the recipient of ATW’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. For details on the 49th Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards Ceremony click here.
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Hello everyone and thank you for joining us for Window Seat Aviation Week Air Transport Podcast. I’m Air Transport World at Aviation Week Network Air Transport editor in chief, Karen Walker. Welcome on board. I am joined today by a very special guest indeed, Sir Tim Clark is president at Dubai-based Emirates and truly one of the industry’s visionaries and game changers. Sir Tim, it is always a pleasure talking with you and thank you so much for your time today. We invited Sir Tim to join Window Seat this week because we have announced that he is the recipient of the ATW 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. Sir Tim, congratulations. This is very highly deserved. What I’d like to focus on today is your 50-year career in aviation and the remarkable journey that is Emirates, as well as hear some of your thoughts and insights on where the industry as a whole is going. I wondered if we could just maybe start at the beginning when you joined British Caledonian. What attracted you to the industry and why has your passion for this industry endured?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, I guess for me, I’m one of these lucky people who, in the case of aviation, I was flying as a child. I spent the whole of my childhood flying on all sorts of aircrafts. This goes back to the fifties and the sixties and the seventies and I became passionate about the business. One of my brothers became a 747 skipper on for British Airways, so he went into the flying, I went into the management administration. From a very early stage, I was one of these people, some people have a vacation, they want to go into the clergy, they want to join the armed forces or whatever, I chose I wanted to be in aviation. Don’t ask me why, Karen. I still have a fascination there. I sit in my office overlooking Dubai Airport and if I get an idle moment, I still get a thrill and looking at aircraft landing and taking off.
As sad as that may seem to a lot of people who may be viewing it, but that is what it is, so you can see why it was relatively easy for me to keep focus on what I wanted to do. In the early days when I went through all the rigors of trying to get into graduate training schemes like BOAC and BEA, only to be sort of declined at the last possible moment just before entering it because they went into one of those great things, the airlines know very well a slump and nobody got in. I then said, “Right, well I’ll go and check in passengers at BCAL.” I just wanted to be close to the ramp operations. I had this rather strange interest in what goes on the ramp. It’s one of those things that’s always fascinated me. That’s how it really started. Of course from there I went into the planning functions of BCAL as it was then. Intellectually, it became a little more perhaps appropriate what I was capable of, but boy, I really love the ramp and the airports very much.
I love to hear that. It’s in the family. You had a brother in this industry too, and I think you’re right. I mean, it doesn’t wear off when you’re still watching planes take off and land and enjoying that. You joined Emirates in 1985 as head of airline planning and of course, became president in 2003. Given how entrenched the black carrier system was in those early days, particularly on the international side, that seemed like a David versus Goliath project at the time. What made you believe that this global hub and airline could be created and would ultimately change in international travel?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, it’s a long story there. I’ll try to be as concise as I could. Obviously, when I was working in BCAL in the sort of planning function, even though I was only 23 then 24, I was a little bit perplexed vets by the way, things were done in BCAL. Remember BCAL was a kind of legacy post-war era carrier that rose out of British Eagle or British United and eventually British Caledonian. I could also see how the way things were done in BOAC and Europe, BEA laterally merged into one big company. I always struggle with the, what can I say, the impotence or the inability to make decisions at pace. I was a little bit frustrated then, but anyway, young enough to realize that it was time probably to move. I moved into Gulf Air in the mid seventies at a time when that company was under formation.
I learned a lot from how to form airlines from virtually nothing with, and I was only 25 at the time, with a team of people who knew what they were doing. I was busy learning as quick as I could outside the planning roles and economics and finance, and that helped me a lot. When we came along, I joined this company, well, it wasn’t even formed then when I joined it. The idea was that a group of us got together and tried and mapped out what we thought would be a good idea, but with regard to the construct of the airline. I didn’t believe in 1985, that we would be at the kind of size we are today or were prior to the pandemic. What I did know was that the same concerns I had when I was in BCAL, I tracked across and I could see the way the legacy carriers operated in the international operation, primarily driven by the post-war traffic patterns and the constructive dare I say it, the legacy of empire.
The likes of British Airways were flying to Africa and all the other places and they tended to take traffic on their networks according to their frequencies and roots rather than where the market wanted them to go. There was the opportunity of course, and it was, you mentioned David and Goliath. Don’t forget, David took down Goliath with a single slingshot. For me, looking around at the time as the sort of planner of the business, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there was a huge opportunity simply because those legacy carriers, as they were known, they were not moving at pace. Many of them today are privatized. In those days there were still extensions of their civil service. [inaudible 00:06:40] Air France, Lufthansa and everything else. The speed at which they could make decisions and execute their decisions was always going to be a problem for them given that the way they were structured.
We took advantage of that. It was also a question of realizing the geo centricity of Dubai at the time, which was a 600,000 population city. It was a bold move to suggest that we would ever create a super hub here. It struck me then, and I know we did the right thing, that we were so plumb central to the land masses and the population masses of the Eastern Hemisphere and given the tools that we had at the time, 707s, VC-10s, Tristars, DC-10s, whatever, and 747s, and given the range limitations of those and their payload limitations, it was clear that we had to work with those tools. Yet being eight hours from Glasgow and eight hours from Denpasar or Jakarta, and the huge amount of business that was incipient but not then active. It wasn’t until 1995 when the world went into the digital world, the digital era, the age of information that this incipient demand activated to the level that we get today.
It didn’t take much with, we realized that our brand had to be punching above its weighted very early stage. A lot of money went into the thought behind that. The in-flight product of course, also had to move. We were unashamed to spend large amounts of money on both of those. By the mid nineties where we had about 25 aircraft, people thought we had 125 aircraft because we were really pushing everything out. Of course, it wasn’t difficult to raise the bar on the products that we offered. This was prior to the digital age and all the online world, but in terms of sort of buns and champagne and caviar, et cetera, quite easy to do. Lavished a huge amount of money on that, overcook the number of girls we had or boys we had on the airplanes in those days, and really treated the customers well.
In those days, fairs were really quite generous, dare I say it, to us. We could afford all that and made money almost immediately, and we’ve never lost money since. The model, the original construct of which by the way, sits in this bottom drawer here. I wrote that out in the autumn of 1985, thinking if we can stick to this by and large and never deviate from this, we’ll be okay. The temptations are, you end up getting involved in perhaps hotels, we might get involved in producing milk or you lose the plot with regard as you scale and you become successful. You think you are a master just about everything, which has happened in the past. The idea was concentrate on that business model, don’t deviate from it, scale it as quickly as you can with the team.
With the tools that laterally came to market, which we had a large say in driving the manufacturers to produce what we wanted, these ultra long range missions, 14, 16, 18 hours, which back in the eighties were unheard of. It was something that we were considered to be from the lunatic for engine to be humaned and listened to but not taken seriously. I think by the mid nineties as we scaled the airline and went into the era of the early 2000s, ordered the A380 and everything else, people began to take us very seriously, not just in aerospace but in the competitive scene, the landscape in which we see. Suddenly we had come from virtually nothing, not taken seriously to an entity that was redefining the way airlines went about fundamentally meeting the demands of the market, not the other way around. The notion that you would serve primary cities as well as secondary and third level cities was unheard of in the vernacular of the legacy carriers with regard to where they put their twin aisle assets, whether it be quads or twins.
What we did was we started going to all sorts of strange places. Like today we have the 380 going back into Glasgow. When I was in BCAL, the ability of a Trident in BEA or ED as it became, operating out of the [inaudible 00:11:19] aircraft with the thrust that it had, was always a bit marginal. It wasn’t an easy field. Now, we have the 380 going into it. The technologies that came with the new aircraft and the airframes and propulsion allowed us to do a lot of weird and wonderful things, and that only it gave us the tools to expand the network to become a truly global operator, not one that was patched up with alliances. We steered clear of the alliance system and still do today. The notion that we would allow South America, North America or someone else to be a partner with us, we wanted to do it our way and that wasn’t without its risks, but that’s what we did. We are where we are today. We continue to evolve and see a lot more coming.
That is absolutely fascinating to hear that and to know that you’ve still got that blueprint right by your side. What I’m hearing there is stay focused, don’t go off the plan. Strong customer service. It was a vision to see the positioning of Dubai and what that could mean. There was really nobody outside that was thinking like that. I think one of the things I’ve just heard from you that I think is fascinating that today, the airline industry takes for granted but not so then is the importance of network planning and how to use that strategically.
As you say, most of the airlines in those days were really sort of stuck with what the governments were sort of saying is where they should serve and they weren’t thinking like that. That was very much an Emirates standard from the signature from the beginning. Fascinating. Now of course, your customers loved Emirates very quickly, loved all those destinations and that customer service, but not everybody was happy. As we all know, this ended up in the 2000s in somewhat of a fight between the US majors and Emirates over the right to operate within the US Open Skies Agreement. During that, that whole fight got bitter, got very expensive legally and all sorts of accusations going around. Fast forward to today, Emirates now has a partnership with United Airlines, so what changed?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, I guess, just to sort of reflect on that particular era, it was tough. We knew that we were making some very solid points based on a very strong foundation. In other words, the accusations made against Emirates with regard to the subsidization of the company, whether it be through cash purchases of aircraft or free fuel, et cetera, were very easily dismissed. I’m afraid my friends over there tried every trick in the book to persuade just about everybody that we were really villains in the game and shouldn’t be allowed into the house to play. The element of reason and the understanding of our situation borne out by what we did, the brand strength and importantly, the fundamentals of financial statements which were validated by multiple entities, whether it be the banks, the one of the big five auditing firms, et cetera, all who stepped up and said all this that they’re saying about Emirate’s stuff is nonsense.
Really we knew we could defend all of this even though it became incredibly difficult. I used to say it’s like saying a table has four legs and a cow has four legs, therefore a table is a cow. I was up against this kind of logic and however hard I tried to reason with them, it became almost impossible to do so. We did say at the time in our view, the smart thing to do would be for those carriers to join forces with us, notwithstanding their alliances, that many of the roots, the network that we have, you talked about the network that we developed at pace and very successfully. Even with their alliance partners, they didn’t serve those places that we could readily bring value to them, but so entrenched were their views at that stage. They’d gone past the point of no return.
Then there was a degree of [inaudible 00:15:46] as we know. Their cases were thrown out by the Trump Administration. The whole thing died of death as we knew it would. Then things started to happen. United became quite interested in the original proposition, which was work with us. Let’s see how it goes. I know you have a strong Euro anchor in the star alliance with Lufthansa, Air Canada, et cetera, et cetera, but just let’s see if we can feel our way. We came to this deal last year, which is the beginnings of something I hope will be very good in the future. United are landing with their, I think it’s the 787 Newark-Dubai nonstop. This will I think be followed by Air Canada who joined in this where we flying Vancouver into Dubai hopefully soon.
That’s what I think since prevailed, Karen, in the end, that as long as we’re not anti-competitive in what we do, and there are eyes on that all the time, I thought, and I’m sure Scott Kirby shared the view that together we could bring value to the consumers, open up the networks at products that were affordable at a time when they needed them and post COVID that was a good thing to have done. We’re hoping it’s early days yet, the take up will be very good.
A pragmatic view really. Is it a good relationship with Scott Kirby?
Sir Tim Clark:
Oh yeah. In this family of airlines, we’re all hugely competitive, but some of us have been around for a long time. We know each other, we’re all good friends. Outside work, we’ll be the great mates, but professionally, we’ll go after each other, but there we are. I think we have the makings of something good here. I hope others will see. I use the example of what we did with Qantas and Alan Joyce. I think this is what attracted the eye of United because we have been so successful with that partnership, which has driven business for Qantas. It has allowed them to rethink the deployment of their assets and we are bringing them value. I think Alan, even though he’s a one world [inaudible 00:18:05], remember? He values that partnership very strongly.
I think this whole business about who is in one particular gang or another is beginning to look as though they need to go and be more expedient in their thinking with regard to the value chain in all of this. Who can bring value to me? Is it better than I would’ve got from the alliances? Ergo, my shareholders required me to produce value and bottom line in dividends. There may be a sort of change in thinking there. It’s early days.
Excellent. The first Open Skies Agreement was sealed more than 30 years ago. That was the US-Netherlands agreement, of course. I know that you feel strongly about aviation liberalization in general. You’ve always been an advocate for that. Do you feel that that is still being valued by politicians today? Is it even understood or is liberalization under threat?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, I think it’s, to contextualize that post COVID, and more recently, of course, with the war in Ukraine, there has been a certain degree of inward looking, perhaps not just in aviation, there are politics everywhere else. The pandemic was so traumatic for what it did to the global economy. Instinctively, people will withdraw, protect, and hope that they can start again. I think to an extent that the digital world was under threat, globalization and all the things that we’ve learned about, I don’t think that’s a long-term thing by the way, but I think there is a certain degree of let’s slow it down and see what happens next before we fully embrace what perhaps, we’d signed up to before. My own view, this is a small period of time where this will go on until we go back into it. A lot will change if this war stops, but today, we are seeing sort of geopolitical repositioning.
We know where they are, we know the players in all of this re-arming everywhere and sort of looking very closely at what everybody else is doing. Whereas, prior to the pandemic, certainly in the mid 2000s prior to the financial crash, everybody was concentrated on improving the quality of life, in improving wealth creation. We all know that was driven by a lot of decoration, hence the crash. There was a degree of unity across the global economy, both in the economic sphere and in the sort of cultural socioeconomic areas. I think that took a nose dive after the crash and then it’s combated by this. Will we get back to it. I do hope so. I think it is important that if we’re to go forward, not just in the aerospace and the airlines, but everywhere else we need to get back to where we were.
Talking of the pandemic, a huge crisis for the world, for humanity, but certainly, the biggest crisis for the aviation industry, the air transport industry. What do you think are the biggest lessons that need to be learned from that crisis?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, when you look back at all the crises we’ve had, not as bad as this. One of the things that, again, my own experiences of this, and I go back to BCAL when I was a 23 year old and they decided to downsize the airline because it wasn’t doing very well. As one of the planners, I had to work through lists of people that had to be laid off, 800 people, small numbers, but in such imagination. After that, the company was so deeply traumatized that as we laid off so many people, it almost came to a full stop. It didn’t have to stop, it was just downsizing. The DNA started to change and they became sort of slightly nervous about what they did. Now what has to happen here is that it is likely going forward there will be global traumas.
Don’t overthink. Certainly, as I say to my guys, we are an international operation, operating internationally, covering every continent on the planet in most cities and each one of those has risk. We do spend a lot of time firefighting, and the ability of the business to prepare itself for a complete lockdown, as we saw in the pandemic, I must admit, not as long as I thought as we know it went on. We have been through this before, we’ve had wars in this part of the world. We’ve had many, many traumas that have hit us and we’ve always … The important thing is we will get through this. It’s a mindset. It’s something that do not let these things get you down longer. The pandemic went on, we came, became very, let’s say more concerned we’ve been in the past because the cash was draining out at $250 million a month going out and we weren’t getting income.
It became to … But I honestly believe then by October 20 where we were six months into the pandemic, everybody was going into lockdown and they were having parties in Downing Street and whatever else was going on, that we would come through this because I knew it was an illness, and illnesses do not wipe out the global population and we would have to deal with it as mankind did. It was a hugely trying time is for all the reasons we know, but would we come out of it? Yes, we would. Therefore, we were obligated with 250 aircraft, 260 aircraft sitting on the ground to prepare for when that happened. You would’ve heard me saying probably in late ’20 and early ’21 in the public domain, when this returns, it will come back like a tsunami. Because we have seen that happen after 9/11, we saw it happen after the financial crash. We saw it happen in 203, we saw it happen in 1998.
There was a consistent result in all of this and that was demand bounce back. Each time it bounced back, the volume and the pace was greater than the time before, which told us that this globalization demand for air travel and all the things that we began to see in the online world were resonating with the consumers out there. When the pandemic, we thought, well, if we just track almost on a linear basis what has happened, and then we measured the demand kickback. It was oscillating and it was telling us that we would, if you take that linear extrapolation, that the demand would be way, way, way up here when it did come back. In the early part of ’21, we started reactivating the whole of our resources, bringing back the crews, getting the aircraft into a state of readiness, getting the supply chain as best we could.
Very difficult ’cause many of them gone out of business. To get the fleet back into a state of readiness, so by July 21 when the government of Dubai officially opened for business and had all our terminals operating, all four or five of them, the rest of the world was still locked down, but we activated the fleet, we activated the cargo operations. In March 2020, we stripped out 20 aircraft, took all the seats out of the ERs and used them as freighters, PPE, getting all the pharmaceuticals into the markets and those aircraft were going flat out, repatriation flights. We never really stopped and we prepared ourselves. By the autumn of ’21, don’t forget, we got Omicron in the middle of this. Omicron popped up in July 20 and flattened demand as everybody went into lockdown again, but I guess we’d gone past the point of no return.
We then carried on. Through the course and our losses, went from horrendous losses. We swung those just to a very, very near break even in the last financial year. We’re about to close this financial year with some pretty good results coming out. The fleet is fully active bar some 380s, which are sitting on the ground having sat there for too long. An aircraft is not designed to sit on the ground, it’s designed to be flying. All the loads on gear and axles, et cetera, et cetera, start need extraordinary attention. We’re dealing with all of that. The take on all of this is, is keep yourself in a state of readiness. Do not believe it’s the end. A lot of people were saying paradigm chains, the end of corporate business travel, [inaudible 00:26:51] Bill Gates, nobody’s going to do this anymore. This is it. Downsizing, environmentalists win, et cetera, et cetera. Frankly, I’ve been too long in the game to know that that wouldn’t happen. The results of what we’re seeing, not just in Emirates but across the planet, this huge surge in demand is the case proven.
I think you’re absolutely right. I remember hearing your voice again, again when all the doomsayers were saying travel will never come back to, people won’t travel the way they used to and certainly the corporate travel and you were really sort of saying, yes, they always do. They come back bigger. Your faith in this industry and was spot on but particularly, with the corporate travel, the business travel, you had great faith in that and that’s exactly what we are seeing. We are now seeing of course, these big surges of back to business, back to normal if anything busier than normal. As part of all of that new activity, there’s been some news the last few days, Saudi Arabia has first part of its vision 2030 aviation and tourism plan gave the official nod to naming the new carrier, it’s going to launch Riyadh Air and ordered big numbers of Boeing 787s. I’d just be curious to see from your perspective, particularly as that’s in your part of the world there, do you see that changing global hub dynamics?
Sir Tim Clark:
Look, it’s part of the 2030 plus plan of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, if it continues down this path, which has a mega trillion dollar spend coming up, trying to transform itself from where it was to where it thinks it should be. There are many facets of that transformation. To make that work, they have to do a bit like Dubai did when they set up Emirates in 1985. The ruler of Dubai Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he’s also the vice president of the UAE, had a vision with regard to where he thought Dubai needed to be and what he wanted to do, but he understood the criticalities of air access because to get to Dubai, there’s no other way you can do it really. It’s unlike Europe where the hubs are served by rail and intermodal cell.
Saudi Arabia with this plan that has realized it had to have an airline. We were very flattered when the crown prince of Saudi Arabia said, “I want an Emirates not in 38 years, but in seven years, you see.” We thought, “Well, that’s great. Well thank you very much. We’re very happy about that,” and Tony Douglas, of course, left and he had to go and set it up, and we’re great friends by the way. I kind of wish them well. Do I see it as a competitive force for what we do over here? If they are aspiring to create a mega hub on the lines of Dubai, my advice would be to concentrate on serving the needs of the kingdom where they’re talking about getting 100 million visitors in the future per year and concentrate on doing that. That serves a need rather than trying to enter a super hub seek freedom, because the complexity as a super hub, are very much an unknown.
A lot of people think they can do it. Oh well, they’ve got it, we’ll do it. It really does take a lot of hard work to get it to work really easily. I would say it’s part of a plan to enrich the economics of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they have many, many, many facets of that plan. To make it work, they have to have an airline. Frankly, good luck to them. I know Tony is very keen on the 787s and the A350s. You see the order of those and they’re not alone. We’ve got Air India, Vistara in the Eastern theater as I call it. To the North. We have Qatar Airways and Turkish, all aspirants in this game and game is on. We’ll just see how it all goes.
Just more generally, as you look out there, how do you see air travel evolving and changing in the future?
Sir Tim Clark:
Well, to ask the question now when we’re on the sort of waning slope of what’s actually happened, what is going to be the new equilibrium? I say that not because I believe demand is going to change. I think demand is going to continue to grow because we are past the point where people will not travel because of budgets, et cetera, so that there is a genuine interest to go and explore, investigate, trade, whatever it was. That’s never going to change. That’s already there. We passed that. In on our screens, we can see anything and everything and in the online world we can get anything we want, do anything we want from in the travel domain, it’s hugely personalized, et cetera. It’s luring you in to travel whether you like it or not, so I say this is likely to continue and abated.
If you then pick up the growth of international air demand for air travel prior to the pandemic, which according to Arta was about 4%, very patchy, but let’s say it was between four and 6%, extrapolate that through to where we are now, which is four years on and we’re 25% up. That’s an extra billion people theoretically would’ve come to the market had there been no pandemic, et cetera. How are we going to accommodate all of those? Well, a lot of airlines are risk averse, a lot of airlines are out of business. The supply calculus has changed quite significantly. As a result of that, you see demand being constant prices rising. If there is a restoration, the equilibrium, ie, where it was in the pandemic, a lot more capacity has got to come back into the markets wherever they may be. Is that going to take time?
A lot of the airlines concentrate on the single aisle that is less risky on the balance sheet. The LRX321, LR, whatever it is, good for them, is the solution to international travel. Albeit, not meeting the demand requirements in terms of the number of who people want to travel on it, so they’re going down that path. You don’t see many apart from this Saudi Arabian order, large numbers of super big twins like the 777-9 in the mix. Is there a belief that it’s getting back to, something I said earlier, do we wait and see and then watch and then pick up and go on? The costs of the aircraft and repulsion have risen significantly because of inflation. Interest rates have risen significantly. Buying an aircraft in terms of the ownership of it and the debt you’ve got to provide for it and the cost of that debt now appear as significant issues on your bottom line on top of fuel now being as high as it is.
Taking together the risk adversity, not surprising in many companies out there is very much to the full. That has to dissipate and confidence has to return and the belief that people will travel and pay the kind of price they’re going to have to pay, given all the factors I’ve spoken about, it is clear that with our seat factors and the industry seat factors has been as high as they are, with the airfares being the highest I have ever known in my career. The demand continues to grow.
At one point, for every seat we had on London, there were five people that wanted it and that was with 517 seats going six times a day into London on a 380. We knew that there was a huge [inaudible 00:35:12], I’m not saying that’s going to last forever, but I’m hoping that the balance supply and demand prices are affordable for everybody once again, products that are extremely good, we will continue to go. I’ve got lots of ideas about new products for the airline, that the value for money proposition will be a good one and we can get back to moving people around, taking them where they want to go in some style and comfort and panache without ripping them off. If we can do that, then we’re back to where we should be.
That’s an absolutely fascinating view of where the world should go on the travel side. I know you get asked this a lot, you postponed your retirement plans because of COVID and as we’ve just heard a very long, very full career that you have enjoyed too. May I ask you what your retirement plans are now? Do you have anything firm in the future?
Sir Tim Clark:
You know, Karen, I actually declared my retirement in September ’19, then the world fell apart and I couldn’t really leave it having, I was the last man standing of the original team that set this thing up, saw it scale, become extremely successful and all the things that we did and the brand became so strong. To leave it in the lurch, I couldn’t equate that with, I couldn’t reconcile that with my conscience. I agreed with everybody that I would stay until I managed to get the business turned round. That’s the least I could do. Now, we’re well ahead of that now and what I’m trying to do now is map the future as best I can so that the team coming behind me will be able to pick this one up and hopefully pursue that line. That little model sitting in my drawer drives me and it needs to drive them because it’s a recipe for success.
It was almost as if it was destined to great things when that was written because the proof of the pudding is where we are today. Stick to it and we’re up against it. Everybody’s coming up with, I see fingerprints of us everywhere, walls on business class suites, everybody claiming theirs is the first, et cetera. I know what we did because we had 70 patents on most of those. People are kind of waking up to the fact that they can’t get away with where they were. They have to have digital in innovation, online innovation, product innovation. They’ve got to move quickly, they’ve got to move intelligently. Above all, the customer and its experience has to be at the center of everything. If you lose that plot and you become somebody who treats them as a commodity and you commoditize your airline, they’re always lost because they forget that you and me are simple human beings who like to enjoy as much as we can on what can be a fairly tedious part of the journey that you’re on.
So what I’m trying to do there is make sure that it continues. Dubai, of course, I haven’t mentioned that as one of the major ingredients of our success. Over 600,000 when I came. Now it’s pushing 4 million residents, let alone the people who come here. The government here, and for those who have been to Dubai and I can they say come and gawk because it is absolutely dumbfounding as to what you will see here and what they’ve done in such a short space of time. They are minded notwithstanding what’s going on in Saudi Arabia, what’s going on in Qatar, what’s going on in Turkey to continue on that path and probably accelerate it as well. The airline has been a major pillar of that model. It will continue to be a major, not just Emirates actually, but the whole aviation sector here, which has grown fly Dubai and all the foreign carriers coming in.
As long as that is in place, we can continue to grow this super hub. I can double the size of that, but not there have to be somewhere else in the further south at the [inaudible 00:39:32], but could we increase it over 10 years to double it size? Yeah, no problem at all. That’s where we need to get the path and keep them focused as you said, and focus on what they’re there to do, which is carry people and cargo as best you can, using the best tools in the trade. Do not get diverted into other things.
It sounds to me as a term, obviously, you are still very passionate about this industry, very dedicated to it and still have lots of ideas for going forward. This has truly been a pleasure talking with you and you’ve been very generous with your time and sharing those thoughts. Again, sincere congratulations on being the ATW 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. I think we’ve just heard exactly why you’re so deserving of that ATW Airline Industry Achievement Awards Gala will be held in Istanbul on June 2nd, just ahead of the IATA AGM, and I’m greatly looking forward to hosting that event. I’d also like to give my thanks to our producer, Guy Ferneyhough and of course, a big thank you to our listeners. Make sure you don’t miss us each week by subscribing to the Window Seat podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Until next week, this is Karen Walker disembarking from Window Seat.
Karen Walker is Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief and Aviation Week Network Group Air Transport Editor-in-Chief. She joined ATW in 2011 and oversees the editorial content and direction of ATW, Routes and Aviation Week Group air transport content.
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