Recovery has begun in earnest for the Gulf carriers. While still a far cry from the numbers of 2019, Dubai-based airline Emirates handled nearly 1.2 million passengers at its hub over July and August. This is close to triple the digits of 402,000 customers during the same period in 2020. Meanwhile, the airline has used the incentive of the pandemic to increase its contact-less options throughout its hub airport.
Emirates is back to serving 120 destinations and intends to increase its network with another 20 routes over the month of October. Furthermore, IATA’s latest world transport statistics show that Emirates was the largest airline in the world during the unprecedented year of 2020. Over the 12-month period, the UAE national airline carried 15.8 million passengers.
IATA’s passenger numbers take into account the first three months of 2020 before COVID hit. For the fiscal year of 2020-21, Emirates carried only a total of 6.6 million passengers, down by 88% from the year prior. The passenger load factor for Emirates for the fiscal year 2020-21 was 44.3%, compared to between 75% and 80% over the ten years prior. The airline’s seat capacity was also down by 83%.
Accelerated biometric roll-out
Emirates says it has implemented a number of investments that have allowed it to facilitate travel over the past year while enhancing customer experience. One such investment is the accelerated roll-out of digital innovations, including the implementation of biometrics.
Following a testing program in 2019, the airline has fast-tracked the application of the technology and now has over 30 biometric cameras in operations across its hub at Dubai International.
Emirates says that over 58,000 customers have used the system to access the Emirates lounge, and over 380,000 people have used it for biometric boarding to date. Following an upward trend for customers to make use of touchless biometric technology as a result of the pandemic, Emirates plans to expand the number of gates equipped with scanners.
Additional self-service kiosks
Eligible travelers can once more use Dubai airport’s Smart Gates to move through passport control on arrival and departure. Emirates has also seen an increase in the use of its self-service kiosks with associated bag drops since the start of COVID. As such, the carrier intends to introduce six additional check-in and bag drop kiosks in its first and business class terminal area this month.
Nearly all employees fully vaccinated
Dubai is one of the few destinations in the world that has been open to tourists since July 7th, 2020. While the airline has not made vaccinations mandatory for the crew, it was one of the first carriers to launch a company-wide campaign for vaccinations. If staff chose not to get vaccinated, they would need to pay for COVID-19 tests before the start of a flight or standby duty. Emirates says that 95% of all employees are now fully vaccinated.
Emirates was also one of the first airlines to sign up for the IATA travel pass in April this year. By October this year, it will have extended its implementation for all of the airline’s destinations.