Airlines cannot operate with empty middle seats - Emirates' Tim Clark
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Airlines cannot operate with empty middle seats – Emirates’ Tim Clark

Airlines cannot operate with empty middle seats – Emirates’ Tim Clark

The next six to nine months will be “tough” for the aviation industry

Sir Tim Clark Emirates Airlines

As airlines across the world gradually resume services, the option of leaving ‘middle seats vacant’ is neither economically viable nor sustainable, Emirates president Tim Clark has said.

Social distancing measures in parts of the world – to prevent the spread of Covid-19, currently require airlines to keep their middle seats vacant.

However, speaking during the opening session of the virtual Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Clark said it was essential to be “consistent with social distancing”.

“You can’t just keep the seat next to you vacant – the person behind you may also sneeze,” he said.

“Following the [right social distancing measures] will mean taking 50 per cent of economy seats out – it doesn’t stack up for anybody to do that.”

The current airline business models thrive on low margins and high volumes, he explained.

Flying half-empty planes is also not environmentally-friendly, added Clark.

To manage the current situation, airlines will have to ensure thorough sanitisation of their aircraft and maintain hygiene measures on board.

“We have introduced a number of protocols to ensure inflight hygiene,” said Clark.

“We also have cabin crew attendants who sterilise and clean the toilets onboard every 30 minutes at minimum. They are constantly sterilising the place. Our crew wear PPE suits and we also provide all passengers with masks, gloves and sanitisers so that they can clean their space,” he said.

Emirates’ air filtration systems also ensure that the air onboard is recycled regularly.

“The air onboard the aircraft is very clean,” said Clark.

Measure such as these should help travellers adjust to the situation.

“I think we will find a way – mankind can adapt very quickly and move on. We have to make these adjustments. The next six to nine months are going to be tough.”

Recovery will depend on finding a vaccine for the virus, opined Clark.

While he anticipates that the market will pick up by summer next year, he stressed that complete recovery will take a long time.

“If we get the vaccine by the first quarter of 2021, we have a fighting chance and my bet is on that,” Clark said.

“I think probably by the year 2022, 2023, 2024, we will see things coming back to some degree of normality,” he added.

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