Long-haul carrier Emirates has reported record profits, earning 2.9 billion dollars (£2.3bn) in 2023 after bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic which shut down global aviation.
The carrier’s revival comes as Dubai, which owns the airline, has seen property prices rocket and people flood into the city-state in the United Arab Emirates as it lifted pandemic restrictions quickly and welcomed Russians fleeing Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Emirates’ annual report put revenue for the carrier at 29 billion dollars (£23bn) in 2022, up 81% from 2021’s divs of 16 billion dollars (£13bn). That drastic swing comes after the airline reported a 1.1 billion dollar (£0.87bn) loss in 2021.
The city-state, one of seven autocratic sheikhdoms that make up the UAE, provided Emirates with a nearly 4 billion dollar (£3.2bn) bailout in the depths of the pandemic.
Even today as travel has bounced back, the carrier still has some of its double-decker Airbus A380s parked, awaiting mechanics to be able to fly again.
“We had anticipated the strong return of travel, and as the last travel restrictions lifted and triggered a tide of demand, we were ready to expand our operations quickly and safely to serve our customers,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates, said.
Earlier on Thursday, Emirates announced it would create a 200 million dollar (£159m) fund for research and development projects aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels in commercial aviation. The airline said the funding would be distributed over three years.
“It’s clear that with the current pathways available to airlines in terms of emissions reduction, our industry won’t be able to hit net zero targets in the prescribed timeline,” airline president Tim Clark said.
“We believe our industry needs better solutions, and that’s why we’re looking to partner with leading organisations.”
Emirates separately will aim to use so-called sustainable aviation fuel as well when possible — though it remains incredibly scarce in the market. In January, the airline successfully flew a Boeing 777 on a test flight with one of its two engines entirely powered by the fuel.
The announcement comes ahead of Dubai hosting the Cop28 climate talks in November.