The man who put showers on the Airbus A380 is stepping down from Emirates
Tim Clark, who has led Emirates for more than 30 years, will retire from his position as president in 2020.
The move was first reported by The National, an English-language publication based in the United Arab Emirates.
Under Clark's leadership, Emirates transformed from a regional airline that primarily served Middle East destinations to the biggest airline in the world by international passengers carried. It's also the largest operator of the Airbus A380, with more than 100 in its fleet. Clark is known as a big proponent of the airplane, which he used to build Emirates into the giant it is today.
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Emirates is especially known for onboard luxury in its premium cabins. It was the first to have showers in the sky for first-class passengers, and continues to be one of TPG reviewers' favorite ways to visit far-off places.
Pam Ann, a comedian who specializes in airline humor, even jokes that Emirates washes their planes with jet fuel and de-ices with Dom Pérignon.
An internal memo reviewed by The National said Tim Clark will stay on with Emirates as a consultant after he officially retires. An airline spokeswoman told the paper that the company hasn't yet announced plans for Clark's successor.
Whoever that person is, their tenure is likely to see major changes at the airline.
“The big challenge is swelling growth and far more competitive international carriers that are equipping themselves with the latest long-range equipment for point-to-point flights," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, focusing on aviation.
Emirates' current model is a classic hub-and-spoke network, which relies on connecting passengers through its Dubai base. That business model will likely change under the next person's leadership, Aboulafia said.
In its next chapter, Emirates will likely focus on developing "a route network that emphasizes profitable routes rather than putting an A380 on Manchester, and probably the same adaptation of smaller equipment," Aboulafia said.
He noted that the airline has already announced plans to phase out its A380 fleet by the mid-2030s. Emirates has also reduced an order for 777X planes, swapping them for the smaller 787, citing manufacturing delays, according to Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research.
Harteveldt told TPG in an email that Emirates is likely to grow in the future by focusing on new routes that carry passengers who never step foot in Dubai and may develop closer ties with other airlines.
"They clearly see the handwriting on the wall," Aboulafia said, discussing the airline's flagship A380, "the future is smaller."
That future will still be luxurious though. He predicted the carrier is likely to have an even greater focus on front-of-cabin passengers going forward.
This story was updated to reflect Tim Clark's correct position at Emirates.