Soundbytes: your weekly travel and aviation industry insights

9 June, 2023

CTC – Corporate Travel Community each week brings you a roundup of the most thought-provoking and interesting comments from those industry leaders in the know.  

KLM CEO: Corporate travel trending below pre-pandemic levels is the new normal

KLM CEO Marian Rintel said high yield leisure travel is "really picking up", while corporate business travel is "less than where it was" pre-pandemic. Ms Rintel added corporate travel trending below pre-pandemic levels will be "the new normal".

UATP: Business travel 'well on its way' to full recovery

UATP released internal data indicating business travel is "well on its way" to a full recovery, in contrast to predictions of a full recovery not occurring before at least 2024. UATP said leisure travel has also regained its full strength, showcasing a "robust resurgence" in the sector. UATP president and CEO Ralph Kaiser said: "UATP has reached 95% of 2019 volume levels for corporate travel in 2023, while leisure travel, as indicated by our AFP volume levels, shows growth well over 100% within the same period".

United Airlines CEO attributes lagging corporate recovery to ongoing 'business recession'

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby reported corporate travel demand remains 20% to 25% lower than previously forecast. Mr Kirby attributed the lagging corporate recovery to an ongoing "business recession" due to worldwide economic pressures, however strong consumer demand is "more than making up for the lack of business travel". Mr Kirby stated premium revenue per available seat mile (RASM) is similar to pre-pandemic levels as the carrier continues to sell "far more premium leisure seats than we ever did before".

Qantas Group recovers to 80% of pre-COVID-19 corporate travel: CEO

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce stated "people not being in the office" is a factor in business travel recovering at a slower pace, adding: "Getting people back into the office is a precursor to get people to do trips". Mr Joyce said: "We're back at around 80% of pre-COVID corporate level of travel and over 100% on revenue and what we're finding is that same day travel is at 60%, that's the one that is weak". Mr Joyce said: "Melbourne-Sydney is at around 60% of what we were and that was the second largest city pair in the world, and it's coming back to being the second largest city pair in the world". He noted other sectors "more than compensate" for Melbourne-Sydney recovering at a slower rate.

IAG CEO: Demand for 2Q2023 and 3Q2023 is 'super strong'

IAG CEO Luis Gallego stated demand for 2Q2023 and 3Q2023 is "super strong", with "a lot of premium leisure demand offsetting the lack of corporate traffic". Mr Gallego also said he expects service disruption issues during summer 2023 to be better than 2022, despite a "challenging environment", adding: "For example, ATC can be a problem, strikes in France aren't helping".

Austrian Airlines CEO: Corporates attracted by the idea of having SAF in their contracts

Austrian Airlines CEO Annette Mann stated the carrier has "launched new products so that customers get more familiar with what SAF [sustainable aviation fuel] actually is and that they better understand that there is also a better way to fly already". Ms Mann highlighted that in particular, "lots of corporates are now attracted by the idea of having SAF in their contracts".

Turkish Airlines chairman: 'Airlines are using every drop of SAF available'

Turkish Airlines chairman Ahmet Bolat stated "Airlines are using every drop of SAF available". Mr Bolat said: "We are incorporating research projects with our scientific associations and also some universities to find alternative ways to produce SAF".

WestJet CEO: Demand environment 'strong' amid market, economy concerns

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech reported the carrier is experiencing "a pretty strong demand environment" post-COVID-19, however concerns linger surrounding the market and economy. Mr von Hoensbroech stated there is "lots of pent-up demand... across all segments" of the market, but questioned how long the pent up demand will last and how the air travel sector will look once demand regulates. Mr von Hoensbroech added there is a "big question mark" surrounding recession concerns and whether a recession will begin "sooner or later".

IndiGo breaking traffic records 'pretty much every day': CEO

IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers stated "we have basically seen steady growth post COVID" in terms of traffic, noting "very healthy development this past summer", despite the fact that "the summer months in India are not the peak travel period, the peak is really between October and December". Mr Elbers reported the LCC is "breaking pretty much every day new records when it comes to traffic", adding: "We expect that for the months, if not years, ahead, to continue like that".

Auckland International Airport CEO: ‘There's a natural tension’ between airlines and airports over charges

Auckland International Airport CEO Carrie Hurihanganui, commenting on the airport increasing aeronautical charges for the period FY2023 to FY2027, stated: "There's a natural tension that exists between airlines and airports particularly when it comes to pricing, so we appreciate they weren't thrilled to have the price increases". Ms Hurihanganui added: "The Commerce Commission will be interrogating the prices we've set. They will go through all the information - our operating costs, our targeted return... They will ensure that we're not charging more than is a fair return".

Wizz Air Group CEO: FY2023 was 'a year of significant growth'

Wizz Air Group CEO József Váradi stated FY2023 was "a year of significant growth for the business", with key operational and financial performance metrics "moving in the right direction" as the carrier transitions into the post-COVID-19 era. Mr Váradi said the carrier delivered industry leading capacity increases, with ASKs up 76% year-on-year and up 40% compared to FY2020.

South African Airways to materialise business rescue plan with strategic equity partner: CEO

South African Airways (SAA) interim CEO John Lamola stated the carrier is hoping to materialise its business rescue plan with a strategic equity partner. Mr Lamola reported SAA is "in the throes of having a strategic equity partner to take SAA into a higher scale of operations", which places the carrier "in a better position than our competitors".

SAS to seek compensation for 'irregularity costs' in Copenhagen: CEO

SAS CEO Anko van der Werff stated the carrier is "pleased to see that the demand for travel continues to increase", with passenger traffic up 19% year-on-year in May-2023 to 2.2 million. Mr van der Werff stated that while SAS "ramped up to meet the increased demand for the summer season", over the previous months "air traffic control capacity issues in Copenhagen have caused considerable problems". He added: "We will seek compensation for the irregularity costs caused by the situation".