DUBAI (Reuters) - The president of Emirates airlines [EMIRA.UL] said on Thursday that demand for flights to Africa from Asia has fallen due to concerns over the Ebola virus.
West Africa is struggling with the worst Ebola outbreak since the disease was identified in 1976, with 3,338 people known to have died, predominantly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, according to latest figures.
Emirates, one of the world’s largest carriers, has helped Dubai become a global aviation hub, and the city is a major stop-over point for Asian customers traveling to Africa.
“There are indications that demand in the east is coming off a little bit because of the perception that Ebola is Africa-wide,” Tim Clark, Emirates president, told an Africa-focused investment event in Dubai.
“There are segments of our business in China, Taiwan, Vietnam etcetera that are fairly cautious about what they are doing, but for every one of those we lose, we’re filling with something else.”
Emirates in August suspended flights to Guinea, where the ongoing Ebola outbreak originated, but has continued flying to other affected destinations. Clark said the airline was not considering halting any other African routes.
Emirates staff look for signs that passengers may be unwell, but otherwise the airline is not taking any other extra precautions for Ebola.
“We don’t have armies of people as we had with the SARS virus for instance – that was a pandemic that was far greater than Ebola in its spreading contagion,” Clark told reporters on the sidelines of the event.
“But we’re not providing our crews with masks because it (Ebola) will be controlled.”
Emirates flies to about 22 destinations in Africa, he said, predicting it could add another 10 to the continent by 2025 as well as raising the frequency of flights on some existing routes.
“We’re looking at Mozambique,” said Clark. “Where you see oil and gas discovery, (it) has got to be of interest for people like ourselves. We can connect the oil and gas human resource. We can connect the cargo into the oil and gas fields. A lot of the stuff travels by air. We’re constantly looking for opportunities.”
Writing by David French; Editing by Hugh Lawson