Your weekly travel and aviation Quote-a

3 December, 2021

At a time of crisis, it is important that we share our insights and experience, helping each other to contain and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. 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. This week mainly features reaction to the discovery of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and the implication of changing travel rules.  

Gol CEO: Destinations with corporate travel profile seeing resurgence in demand

Gol CEO Paulo Kakinoff stated face to face meetings will "continue to be necessary" in the business world. Mr Kakinoff said leisure travel is making a faster comeback than business travel, with destinations with a corporate travel profile such as Brasilia and Porto Alegre are experiencing a resurgence in demand, adding that the need for team meetings, events and customer visits has "enormous growth potential".

Emirates Airline to continue 'to move as if this variant will be dealt with': President

Emirates Airline president Tim Clark said: "December is a very important month for the air travel business", adding if the Dec-2021 travel period "is lost, or the winter is lost to a lot of carriers, there will be significant traumas in the business, certainly the aviation business and the periphery". Sir Tim said the situation will be "much clearer" by the end of Dec-2021, noting the carrier is "continuing to move as if this variant will be dealt with", and will amend plans if needed.

SAS remaining 'cautious' due to prevailing uncertainties

SAS CEO Anko van der Werff stated the carrier remains "cautious" due to prevailing uncertainties, but underlying demand will be "healthy" once restrictions are lifted, both for business and leisure travel. Mr Werff said short term effects of recent developments needs is yet to be fully analysed, however it remains "optimistic" for the peak periods ahead. During the pandemic, demand for travel has changed and SAS expects a greater number of leisure travellers and even more "intense competition" in the future.

IATA: Discriminating among vaccines is a waste of resources and an unnecessary restriction

IATA regional VP for Europe Rafael Schvartzman said governments should prioritise policies that are "simple, predictable and practical in order to ensure passengers regain confidence to travel and airlines confidence to reopen routes". Mr Schvartzman noted the European Centre for Disease Control's latest risk report is explicit that travel restrictions are "unlikely to have any major impact on the timing or intensity of local epidemics". IATA "appreciate[s] that authorities must remain vigilant", but takes the position that "discriminating among vaccines that have been approved by the WHO is a waste of resources and an unnecessary barrier to people's freedom to travel", said Mr Schvartzman.

easyJet CEO: We have seen an impact on short term demand due to Omicron variant

easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the airline has seen an impact on demand due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, "particularly on... short term departures". The UK Government recently added 10 African countries to its travel red list over the spread of the variant, with Mr Lundgren stating that recent figures do not show "the same level of impact and drop off we've seen in previous times when restrictions have been introduced".

AirPortr CEO: Aviation industry needs to double down on its digital transformation

AirPortr CEO and founder Randel Darby said the aviation industry returning to its old ways "is the worst thing that the industry could do" and now is the time to "double down" on its digital transformation "rather than reverting to historic processes and operations". Mr Darby added the aviation industry has also "arguably been too short-sighted in its approach to improving passenger experience" focusing on "cosmetic improvements such as wider seats, catering, and inflight entertainment".

New round of travel restrictions 'devastating' for tourism in southern Africa

Southern African Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost commented on the travel restrictions imposed on southern African countries by other nations following the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. Mr Frost said: "We would have hoped that we live in a world where science would first be allowed to unfold before punishing us with immediate labelling". He added: "There is no hope for a good summer season" in South Africa (SA). Association of Southern African Travel Agents CEO Otto de Vries commented: "This is devastating for SA's brand as a destination... We would now have to rebuild confidence in SA as a destination".

Ryanair Group CEO: Omicron variant is not 'justifiable reason' to stop travel for tested, vaccinated

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O'Leary said he does not see the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as a "justifiable reason to prevent people who are vaccinated or have negative PCRs" from travelling. Mr O'Leary confirmed the carrier is not cancelling services due to the variant, adding: "We frankly don't think there is risk to air travel within Europe from those people".

Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO: Omicron variant 'could radically change things'

Tourism Industry Aotearoa CEO Chris Roberts said the coronavirus Omicron variant "could radically change things" adding "It might not even be in the conversation in a few weeks' time". Mr Roberts said the variant "shows you how much uncertainty there is and so we obviously have to watch what the impact globally is of Omicron".

TAP Air Portugal CEO says airline will 'react accordingly' to Ryanair competition

TAP Air Portugal CEO Christine Ourmières Widener announced the airline will "react accordingly" in response to potential competition from Ryanair on Lisbon routes. The CEO said that the emergence of a competitor is never good news, adding Ryanair has not been 'particularly friendly' with the airline. Ryanair recently announced plans to opens its fifth base in Portugal in Madeira.

South African President calls for countries to reverse 'unjustified' travel bans

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa stated (28-Nov-2021) the South African Government is "deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of Southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant". Mr Ramaphosa added: "This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome" in Oct-2021. He stated: "These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries... The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant. The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic".

London Southend Airport CEO: We have a very compelling future proposition

London Southend Airport CEO Glyn Jones said he would be "extremely surprised" if pre-pandemic traffic growth rates do not return in "two or three years". Mr Jones added the airport has a "very compelling proposition for the future", citing features including the airport's location and installation of new screening technology. As previously reported by CAPA, Esken Limited plans to resume commercial operations from the airport in Apr-2022.

AISATS CEO says pandemic revealed need for upskilling/reskilling in aviation workforce

Air India SATS Airport Services (AISATS) CEO R Ramanathan observed the COVID-19 crisis revealed a skill gap in aviation employees, and suggested that closing the gap will require a "skill-based approach that focusses on levelling up employees' digital and cognitive capabilities, self-awareness and communication skills" (The Hindu BusinessLine, 28-Nov-2021). He said a hybrid training approach, combining mobile learning with conventional training, would develop these skills and a resilient work ethic. AISATS took an upskilling/reskilling approach during the pandemic, which was "vital in adapting our business to the market realities created by the pandemic" as it made employees "more receptive to new roles", said Mr Ramanathan.