PARIS (Reuters) - Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, is looking to the region’s biggest economy, Saudi Arabia, to help make up for a drop in demand that has forced it to keep five aircraft grounded.
Emirates has redeployed eight aircraft elsewhere after grounding 13 jets as a result of cutting back on services to the United States since May, President Tim Clark told reporters at the Paris Airshow on Wednesday.
He said the airline was looking at Saudi Arabia’s demand for charter flights for the aircraft that remain grounded.
Earlier on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia elevated Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of its economic reforms, to crown prince.
“It appears to us that the Saudi’s are being a little bit more expansive, inclusive, call it what you like,” Clark said. “I am optimistic that we will get more access to Saudi and that’s quite important to us because that’s a very powerful market.”
Saudi Arabia attracts millions of Muslim pilgrims each year by land, sea and air to undertake Haj and Umrah.
The Haj is a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and takes place once a year, with more than one million Muslims traveling by air, while the Umrah pilgrimage, also to Mecca, can be undertaken at any time of the year.
Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Mark Potter