Your weekly travel and aviation Quote-a

17 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 key insights from the Dec-2021 edition of CAPA Live and further reaction to the discovery of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and the implication of changing travel rules.  

CAPA chairman emeritus: Business travel reduction to 'reshape the way long haul operates'

CAPA - Centre for Aviation chairman emeritus Peter Harbison stated business travel reduction will "reshape the way long haul operates". Mr Harbison said business travel will be "significantly down", particularly for long haul operations, "even if companies do get back to travelling, there won't be so many people travelling".

IAG CEO: 75% of corporate travel partners to resume business travel

IAG CEO Luis Gallego stated corporate travel accounted for 13% of IAG's total revenue in 2019, and following "the reopening of the US in Nov-2021, corporate travel recovered to 50% of 2019 levels". He added while he expects the "shape of business travel may change, face to face meetings will continue to be important", with over 75% of its corporate travel partners indicating they will travel again for business purposes.

Ryanair Group CEO: I would 'support limiting air travel to vaccinated people'

Ryanair Group CEO Michael O'Leary called for the UK Government to remove its travel testing requirement, stating that he would also "support limiting air travel to vaccinated people". Mr O'Leary said he sees "no justification" for fully vaccinated travellers to "take tests before they travel and, more ludicrously, two days after they travel".

AWS MD travel & hospitality: Passengers want 'clean', 'flexibility' and 'experiences' from travel

Amazon Web Services (AWS) managing director (MD) travel & hospitality David Peller stated passengers' travel requirements have "fundamentally changed" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting three main areas: 'clean', 'flexibility' and 'experiences'. Mr Peller said companies across the travel industry are having to innovate around what 'clean' means to them, and promoting the concept to their customers. He added that the flexibility to change or cancel a reservation used to be a "premium value and profitable item", while today customers are expecting the ability to cancel their reservations at incredibly short notice. Mr Peller said technology is "at the centre" of delivering on all these capabilities.

Cranky Flier president: 'Hard to know' impact of Omicron on the return of business travel

Cranky Flier president Brett Snyder stated "it's hard to know at this point. A lot of businesses weren't planning on getting restarted again until after the holidays" when asked whether the COVID-19 Omicron variant will impact business travel recovery. He added "Maybe this will push it back again further if there's more information, but I think most businesses are, at this point at least, seem to be taking a 'wait and see' approach to see there's not dire news about this variant similar as there was with delta".

Southwest Airlines to pace replacement of missing business frequencies over next 1-2 years, says EVP

Southwest Airlines EVP and CCO Andrew Watterson stated "Our business frequencies are what's missing right now, and business travels is what's missing right now". Mr Watterson added "it will take some time for that to come back, therefore we're going to pace the replacement of those missing frequencies over the next year or two, with the pace of business demand returning".

BTA reports its members frustrated with 'fractured and disjointed' NDC adoption

Business Travel Association (BTA) CEO Clive Wratten reported the association is "fully supportive" of the transition to the IATA New Distribution Capability (NDC) distribution standard, but the "fractured and disjointed approach is failing to deliver on expectations" and the BTA's membership is "frustrated" with a "lack of progress" from airlines. Mr Wratten added that travel management company (TMC) and business travellers have been "consistently penalised" by NDC, given the introduction of surcharges on NDC content, unmet commitments from airlines and the unrealised gains from "heavy financial and technological investment" from TMCs. Mr Wratten urges airlines to adopt a "collective customer-centric approach that streamlines with TMCs' activities to sustainably grow the business travel sector and enable tangible change".

ForwardKeys VP insights: US reopening 'major step towards recovery'

ForwardKeys VP insights Oliver Ponti stated "The major step towards recovery was made in Sep-2021 when the US announced the reopening of the country to vaccinated foreigners". He added the announcement gave a real boost to travel from the EU and the UK to the US as tickets jumped from 25% of 2019 levels at the beginning of Sep-2021 to around 90% at the end of Oct-2021". He also acknowledged "intra-European business travel has been on a steady rise since Apr-2021".

Qantas Group CEO: 'This has been one of the worst halves of the entire pandemic'

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce stated "This has been one of the worst halves of the entire pandemic", with domestic capacity falling to approximately 30% of pre-coronavirus levels. Mr Joyce said: "Domestic demand has started to pick up again and we're expecting a strong performance over the Christmas period and continued strength into early next year as more restrictions ease". Mr Joyce said Omicron variant has had "a clear impact on people's confidence to book international trips in particular", however, the group has not recorded "seen large numbers of cancellations".

SkyTeam CEO: 'We are more and more having to learn to live with COVID-19'

SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile stated "We are more and more having to learn to live with" COVID-19. Ms Colvile continued: "If you look at the numbers of what travel and tourism contributes to the global economy, we can't afford to keep our industry as locked up as it has been in the past". She concluded: "I see that being recognised in many different countries now".

LATAM Airlines Group CCO: Governments should recognise airlines as partners, not adversaries

LATAM Airlines Group chief commercial officer (CCO) Marty St George stated governments should recognise airlines as "partners, not adversaries", adding "it is extremely important that governments in the region recognise the utility that aviation brings". Mr St George said governments should be "very thankful" that prices in Spanish speaking South America are "significantly lower" than for similar services in the US.

Travelport: 'People want that face to face opportunity'

Travelport global head, customer strategy and marketing Kyle Moore stated "People want that face to face opportunity", adding: "It drives sales, builds relationships and fosters longer relationships to maintain". Mr Moore said: "It'll take longer for internal meetings, but getting out with the customer matters and we're really beginning to start to see that".

easyJet COO: 2021 a year of 'big ancillary change' for the LCC

easyJet COO Peter Bellew stated 2021 has been a year of "big ancillary change" for the LCC, as "we were one of the last airlines in the world to monetise trolley bags, particularly in the low cost space". Mr Bellew said "initially we introduced, in Feb-2021, a product with a better seat and a trolley bag attached to it, in a limited enough inventory, alongside bundled fares that had that product in it as well, and that's gone really well for us, it's been very successful". He continued: "We've now split out the product into a new range with a separate trolley bag as its own product, or the premium seat, and again they're selling well, and we've got that live through the app and through the website".

Etihad Airways would redeploy A380s 'if the economics work': CEO

Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas said the carrier would redeploy A380 aircraft "if the economics of it work", adding: "the market has only really come back in the past two months; it's probably too early to say". Mr Douglas noted strong customer approval for Etihad's A380 and its four class offering, but confirmed redeployment of the 10 inactive aircraft is "not in the plan at the moment", adding: "If the economics don't work, I'm not a registered charity: they're out".  

IBS Software vice president: An airline's product is the destination, not the seat

IBS Software vice president and head - aviation passenger solutions David Friderici stated the COVID-19 pandemic has "increased carriers' appetite for innovation", adding that network carriers have "realised that LCCs and hybrids are ahead of them technology wise". Mr Friderici said the pandemic has shown that an airline's product is "not the seat, it's the destination". He added that IBS Software is working on a platform that uses machine learning to analyse customers' data over two years, with the aim of building individual recommendations, creating product combinations "you typically wouldn't see".

Azul chief revenue officer: eVTOL aircraft will replace helicopters in Brazilian metro areas

Azul chief revenue officer Abhi Shah stated the urban mobility market in 2030 and beyond is going to be "very, very large". Mr Shah said electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are "a lot simpler to maintain, operate and fly" than helicopters, which currently serve large metro areas like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He added that electric aircraft will eventually replace helicopters for commuter traffic while using existing helipad infrastructure.

Munich Airport CEO not expecting pre pandemic traffic levels until 2024

Munich Airport CEO Jost Lammers said pre pandemic traffic levels are unlikely to return until 2024 "at the earliest". Mr Lammers added that 3Q2021 traffic numbers, with more than five million passengers travelling through the airport, "clearly showed" people want to travel when restrictions are eased, leaving the airport in a "far better position" than it was in the same period in 2020.