AIRLINES should stop meekly accepting their image as the world’s environmental ‘whipping boys’, says Emirates Airline’s Tim Clark.
“We don’t tell enough of what has been done,” Clark protested, in a head-to-head at WTM. “It is very important that the industry remains as a major contributor to today’s global economy. If you continue to make life difficult for us then you must reap the whirlwind that will happen if we cannot manage the job as people like us to do.”
He said the industry was doing a lot behind the scenes to make aircraft more fuel efficient and environmentally compliant and the ratio of passenger to fuel use has already been hugely reduced. “But the airlines have been traditional whipping boys. We have security charges raised on us – and all sorts of other taxes.”
Clark said airlines are responsible for just two or three per cent of global emissions. “That compares with 75 per cent from automotives.”
Instead, he asked for greater efficiencies among on-ground stakeholders, such as airports. “I would like to see a greater synergy between the air traffic control and companies, so we don’t have to take convoluted paths across the planet and we can have more straight line routes. [In that case] you would probably take 10 to 15 per cent out of airways’ flying today.”
More can also be done in airports, he said, asking for cohesion in the industry, harmonisation of views and harnessing of them into constructive action. “If they all come together with a way forward then I am sure you will see some rapid changes in the way we go about our business.”
On the environment front, Clark said airlines are “very much concerned about the environment”, but said he was concerned about recent hysteria accompanying predictions of climate change, from tsunamis to biblical floods.
Clark talked of the 1970s, when airlines were accused of impacting climate change, at the time when the world was on the brink of an ice-age with scientists projecting a rise in sea levels of about three or four feet by the turn of century, and that “archipelagos like the Maldives would disappear. Well, they are still there and there are a few more of them.”
He has been at the forefront of Emirates’ flyaway triumphs in the past 20 years – with 100 planes added to the fleet and the same amount on order. “Our destiny is linked to Dubai. No question of that. Had we known the rate of change and progress we would have been a lot more bullish than we are today about our fleet and network expansion.”
Clark said Emirates will see growth of up to 35 million passengers, representing 50 per cent of Dubai airport’s plans. With other carriers are coming into Dubai in a big way, Clark said the airport will run short of capacity with nowhere to park the planes.