File: Emirates has welcomed the decision. AFP/Karim Sahib
DUBAI - Dubai-based airline Emirates is on track to restore 70 percent of its capacity by year-end, its chairman said, insisting that countries cannot "close down forever".
The aviation industry, along with tourism hotspots, are pinning their hopes on the crucial summer season, despite ongoing tight restrictions to combat coronavirus in much of the world.
"I'm confident that governments around the world, they will not be able to close down forever and they must open," said the carrier's chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.
"I'm optimistic, I think summer is coming, a lot of people who stopped travelling for the last year and a half, they want to travel, they want to go back to a certain normality," he told reporters at a tourism exhibition in Dubai.
Sheikh Ahmed said that after a "very tough year", the carrier was "on track" to return to 70 percent of its pre-coronavirus capacity by the end of 2021.
Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, laid off some 25 percent of its staff and slashed its sprawling network at the height of the crisis last year.
Sheikh Ahmed said the carrier was in talks to reverse that process and hire more staff, in anticipation of an industry recovery, although the timeline would depend on the pace of recovery.
The airline has resumed passenger flights to 120 destinations, about 85 percent of the routes it flew to before the pandemic.
Emirates received $2-billion in state aid to weather the crisis and Sheikh Ahmed did not rule out another cash infusion.