Aviation giant Emirates said Thursday it expects business to grow next year despite the surge in global coronavirus cases fuelled by the Omicron variant.

The Dubai-based carrier said in November it was already on the path to recovery as six-month losses dropped by more than half from a year earlier.

"Despite the recent rise of the Omicron variant and the slight slowdown it brought to our network, we are going into 2022 with optimism," said Emirates CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

"We've built up some great momentum this year and expect business growth to pick up speed in 2022," he said in a company statement.

"Aviation has always been resilient, and we will continue to work with our industry partners to build back better for our customers and communities."

Emirates President Tim Clark said in November that the carrier expects to return to profitability "in the next 18 months".

The carrier posted an April-September loss of $1.6 billion, compared with losses of $3.4 billion during the same period in 2020.

Emirates specialises in long-haul flights, with its fleet composed solely of large A380 and B777 aircraft, dozens of which it grounded amid a lack of passenger traffic.

Dubai-based carrier Emirates upbeat on growth in 2022 despite Omicron
Dubai-based carrier Emirates upbeat on growth in 2022 despite Omicron AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACE

According to the statement on Thursday, its passenger network by December had reached 128 cities, adding all the carrier's 133 Boeing 777 aircraft and nearly 60 of its A380 fleet are in active service.

Earlier this month, Dubai international airport, one of the world's busiest travel hubs, announced it was fully operational for the first time since the pandemic erupted in March 2020.

According to Emirates, a peak in travel has begun ahead of the New Year, with nearly one million passengers expected to depart and arrive in Dubai between December 30 and January 10.

Dubai, which is heavily dependent on tourism, was one of the world's first destinations to welcome back visitors in July 2020.

The Covid spikes around the world have caused severe disruptions to travel over the end of year holidays, with thousands of flights cancelled worldwide.

The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday of a Covid "tsunami" that threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems.

The United Arab Emirates, a seven-member federation which includes Dubai, has the world's highest vaccination rates.

But it has also recorded the largest number of infections among Arab countries of the Gulf, with 2,234 infections reported on Wednesday, the highest number since June.