Emirates Airline CEO, Sir Tim Clark, remains bullish on growth in Africa, anticipating strengthening partnerships and the addition of 10 routes over the next decade, in spite of the impact of the Ebola outbreak, which has notably resulted in a decline in African bookings from Asian countries.
“We’re looking at Mozambique,” he said on the sidelines of the Africa Global Business Forum. “Oil and gas discovery has got to be of interest for people like ourselves. We can connect the human resources and cargo to the oil and gas fields. A lot travels by air, and we’re constantly looking for opportunities.”
Mozambique, Benin, Togo, Equatorial Guinea and Congo are all potential destinations as Emirates increase investment in its Africa fleet from $7bn today to $12bn “within a few years,” Clark added.
Overall this corresponds to a growth of 40% in Emirates’ capacities in Africa, with the addition of 10 passenger destinations to its 22 current routes over the next decade, and a rise in its African passenger capacity by 8.5 million seats by 2020, in addition to parallel growth trends in air freight.
Most recently, the Dubai carrier signed a rare 10-year management deal with Angola’s national carrier, TAAG Linha Aéreas De Angola, that will see Emirates name a new CEO, appoint four senior managers to the flag carrier and oversee a wide scope of its operations.
A mixed response
Back in August, despite Emirates having suspended flights to Conakry over the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, the airline also signed a partnership agreement with Nigeria’s Arik Air, which flies from Lagos and Abuja, in a display of unmitigated confidence in Nigeria and the broader West African market.
The Dubai carrier also scheduled a route to Abuja in August, its second route in Nigeria, which has contributed to a double-digit increase in seats between the two regions in the last 12 months.
Nevertheless, Emirates has seen a reduction in Asian passenger traffic to African countries, with Clark noting: “There are indications that demand in the east is coming off a little bit because of a perception that Ebola is Africa-wide, but it certainly isn’t.”
“There are segments of our business in China, Taiwan and Vietnam that are fairly cautious, but for every [thing] we lose we fill it with something else. There’s always business to be done in Africa.”
Benefit of the doubt
Recent Ebola figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), show 8,033 reported cases and 3,865 recorded deaths, though the total count for both is believed to be much higher.
Clark noted, however, that the airline was not considering halting any other African routes, and would continue flying to other affected destinations, in contrast to the drastic measures taken by some airlines and countries to also cut flights to eastern or all African destinations.
He added that Emirates staff are taking extra care to look for signs that passengers may be unwell, but that otherwise the airline is not taking any other extra precautions for Ebola.
“We don’t have armies of people and we’re not providing our crews as we had with the SARS virus for instance – that was a pandemic that was far greater than Ebola in its spreading contagion,” Clark said.