Handling the crisis with Tim Clark, President Emirates Airlines


The industry faces incredibly challenging times-rising fuel prices, weak demand, increasing government taxes, not to mention natural disasters. At times like these real leadership quality and experience counts for everything and when I met Tim Clark, President of Emirates last year I was keen to know how he was successfully riding the storm.

At a time when many airlines are facing financial difficulties or are severely cutting back, Emirates retains a healthy balance sheet and continues its network and capacity expansion. This has resulted in respect for the airline by many in the industry matched perhaps by annoyance expressed by those who see it as making “unfair” inroads to others perceived “territory”!

“No we don’t get tax breaks. No we don’t get subsidised fuel!” is what the critics will hear strongly from Tim Clark. One thing is certain-the continuing success of Emirates is very much entwined with the character of its President.

Far from moaning about the economic gloom that the industry faces, Tim always expressed great optimism for the future on each occasion that I met with him in 2011. Looking at the results (fuel prices not withstanding), this optimism was not misplaced and Emirates is clearly benefitting from Tim’s long and broad experience.

For example, the airline is finding no difficulty in filling the capacity of its A380’s as it adds them to more routes and frequencies, Tim cites 90% load factors on these.

But how is it that Emirates can find new routes when others are struggling?

Talking to Tim and his network and commercial team, it appears that it has an entrepreneurial approach to route development which is not driven by mechanistic data. Emirates responds to trends when it sees them emerging and seeks to create markets whereas some other airlines wait until those markets are well established or base decisions on annual figures that are already out of date by the time they are published.

It is frequently surprised at the traffic flows which it uncovers and could never have predicted would arise from the provision of a service.

Tim himself remains a network planner at heart and waxes lyrical about the excitement of each new route added. He takes a pragmatic view based on experience, about the challenges faced, believing that it was ever thus and that this is the industry’s lot, like it or lump it.

Arabian Travel Market 2011

He has a depth of technical understanding which is appreciated by the manufacturers and which they ignore at their peril. Boeing has benefited from this in the development of the 777 family and so too has Airbus with the A380.

However Airbus is not gaining brownie points from Emirates at the moment in its revision of design specifications on the A350, definitely one to watch in 2012. Emirates faces other battles ahead in 2012 particularly on the aero political front with a number of governments resisting its expansion ambitions.

So there’s no doubt Tim Clark’s plate will remain full – but his diet of optimism and pragmatism is likely to keep Emirates well nourished for the year to come.

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1 comment to Handling the crisis with Tim Clark, President Emirates Airlines

  • I think DXB-NCL is a great example of Emirates looking to create markets (probably taking advantage of some airport incentives too) and the recently announced upgrade to a 777-300ER seems testimony to the fact the approach must be working.

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