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Emirates expects patchy recovery after passenger numbers decline 88% in 2020-21

Highlights

The airline carried 6.6 mil passengers in the year

From zero flights in March 2020, it flew to over 120 destinations by March 2021

UAE accounts for more than a third of Middle East's jet fuel demand

Emirates Airline, the world's biggest carrier for long-haul flights in 2019, expects the recovery in the aviation industry to be patchy after its passenger numbers during the 2020-21 financial year (April-March) plummeted 88% as the coronavirus pandemic led to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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Emirates, which operates out of its hub at Dubai International Airport, posted its first loss in over 30 years for the 2020-21 financial year as it carried only 6.6 million passengers and saw its seat capacity decline 83%, it said in a statement June 15. From zero scheduled passenger flights at the start of the financial year, Emirates flew to over 120 destinations by March 31.

"No one knows when the pandemic will be over, but we know recovery will be patchy," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airline. "In the year ahead, we will continue to adopt an agile approach in responding to the dynamic marketplace. We aim to recover to our full operating capacity as quickly as possible to serve our customers, and to continue contributing to the rebuilding of economies and communities impacted by the pandemic."

The UAE, which represented 36% of the Middle East's jet fuel demand in 2019, is forecast to see jet fuel consumption rise by a third to 120,000 b/d in 2021 from 90,000 b/d in 2020, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Overall Middle East jet fuel demand, accounting for 80% of regional kerosene consumption, will recover by 44% to 330,000 b/d in 2021, but will still be 30% lower than 2019, according to Platts Analytics. Middle East jet fuel demand will likely return to 87% of the 2019 level in 2022.