The Corporate Travel Community brings you a roundup of the most thought-provoking and interesting comments from those industry leaders in the know.
AirAsia Group CEO: ‘At some point countries have to take a little bit of risk to reopen’
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes stated: “At some point countries have to take a little bit of risk to reopen as we cannot live in a cave for the rest of our lives”. Mr Fernandes added: “We have to live with this virus as we have with others before like the common cold or dengue”.
El Al faces ‘huge task’ of getting ‘back on track’, but it’s a ‘long way’ until recovery
El Al chairman David Brodet said the carrier faces the “huge task” of getting “back on track” after an eight month suspension of scheduled services. Mr Brodet said the completion of the assistance plan and the raising of debt are immediate challenges, also emphasising the importance of restoring customer confidence. Mr Brodet added El Al must implement a streamlining plan and while the carrier is “slowly” resuming services, there is a “long way” until recovery.
United Airlines to ’emerge as the world’s number one business class airline’: CEO
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby stated he expects demand will begin to recover “in earnest” from the end of 2021 and start of 2022, with business demand to “come back to normal” in 2024. Mr Kirby termed business travel the “bread and butter” of United in the past and in the future. He stated: “I think we’re going to make a decade worth of progress during the pandemic. And when we emerge, particularly given our seven hubs, given what our pilots agreed to do by keeping everyone in their seats, given everything that we’re doing to invest in the customer experience… everything that we’re doing with our loyalty program, we’re going to emerge as the world’s number one business class airline”.
Solomon Airlines CEO: ‘The future is unclear and our survival depends upon Government support’
Solomon Airlines CEO Brett Gebers, in an open letter, stated “The future is unclear and our survival depends upon Government support and the intermittent revenue we raise as we wait to reopen Solomon Islands borders and begin regular operations again”. Mr Gebers said the carrier lost 60% of its revenue “overnight” and is operating with a smaller workforce with reduced pay on a job rotation roster. Mr Geber stated: “Solomon Airlines has minimal cash reserves, and we are indebted to those we owe money to and are deeply grateful to have very good working relationships with our suppliers and creditors who are working with us to keep us in business”.
US Travel Association: ‘Safe travel is absolutely possible’ if best health practices are employed
US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow stated there will not be an economic or jobs recovery “unless travel is able to broadly resume”, and subsequently noted universal mask wearing and other hygiene practices will “enable” that recovery to occur. He concluded: “That’s why the travel industry has been emphasising the necessity of masks since the early days of the pandemic, and will keep repeating it as often as we need to until it’s fully automatic behaviour among travellers… safe travel is absolutely possible as long as everyone in the travel ecosystem employs best health practices”.
British Airways CEO calls for ‘a reliable and affordable test before flying’
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle stated British Airways does not believe quarantine is the long term solution, suggesting the “best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying”. Mr Doyle stated: “For the UK this approach reduces the stress on NHS testing systems within the UK and on policing the quarantine system”.
UNWTO: ‘Strong coordination’ required to accelerate the lifting of travel restrictions
UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said “strong coordination” is required to “accelerate the lifting of travel restrictions in a safe and timely manner, to increase investment in systems that support safe travel, including testing on departure, and to sustain and support businesses and jobs”. Mr Pololikashvili said that is these three priorities are not addressed “we will fail to restart tourism, and so fail to save millions of livelihoods”.
Qatar Airways will not operate A380s ‘for at least the next couple of years’: CEO
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, speaking at the Airlines 2050 online conference, said the carrier does not expect to operate its fleet of A380s “for at least the next couple of years”. He noted carriers reintroducing the A380 to service prior to achieving 2019 growth levels will be “very foolish”, explaining: “There will not be that kind of demand [in the short term], and if demand starts to grow and people start deploying the A380, you will only be able to achieve [the reintroduction] by dumping the price [of tickets]… and once you dump the price, you become unsustainable”.
KLM CEO reports ‘political unwillingness to move forward on the Single European Sky’
KLM CEO Pieter Elbers said there is a “political unwillingness to move forward on the Single European Sky” and this is adding as much as 10% to the fuel use and emissions of airlines in Europe. Europe has an “ineffective, inefficient, scattered” European airspace system in place he said. Given the “pressure on the cost and the mere survival of the industry” and the level of state support given to airlines due to the coronavirus pandemic, it “should be a no brainer to move forward on that” said Mr Elbers.
UK Transport Minister: Aviation ‘has to transform its environmental impact if it’s to be viable’
UK’s Transport Minister Grant Shapps stated the aviation industry “has to transform its environmental impact if it’s to be viable”, and welcomed the “leadership that the industry is showing”. Mr Shapps said the “pace of change is only going to accelerate” and the UK’s Jet Zero Council will consult to update its position on aviation and climate change.
Air Astana CEO: Pre departure COVID-19 testing for passengers is the key to restart of operations
Air Astana CEO Peter Foster stated pre-departure COVID-19 testing for passengers intending to travel internationally holds the key to a restart of operations. Mr Foster added: “Travel, tourism and leisure industries are collectively a massive generator of global economic activity and jobs. It is vital that these industries are able to restart in a meaningful way at a point early in 2021”.
AFRAA secretary general: African airlines ‘experiencing a liquidity crisis’
African Airlines Association (AFRAA) secretary general Abdérahmane Berthé, in the association’s official newsletter, stated the African airline industry “is currently experiencing a liquidity crisis and airlines are facing the risk of insolvency or even bankruptcy due to the lack of liquidity”. Mr Berthé said AFRAA and other stakeholders have appealed to governments to consider “the compensation of inevitable losses, the alleviation of exogenous operating costs, and the subsidisation of the African airlines”. He also stated: “The recovery of the airline industry will require coordinated efforts and a collaborative approach with all stakeholders to ensure survival and business continuity”.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO: ‘Blow after blow can make you lose sight of achievements’
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen said the coronavirus impact “dealt by the 2019-20 financial year has eclipsed all man-made and natural disasters that the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef tourism industry has weathered”. Mr Olsen said prior to coronavirus, “2020 was off to a worrying start with the impact of news of Australia’s devastating bushfires and Chinese New Year cancellations as the coronavirus raged through China”. Mr Olsen said: “Blow after blow can make you lose sight of achievements”, noting the region’s tourism had a “fantastic Mar-2020 quarter”, increasing visitor expenditure above its 2020 target of AUD3.5 billion (USD2.5 billion), and grew domestic market share to 11.8%. Mr Olsen said it may take up to five years to return to visitor spend of 2019 levels.
London Heathrow Airport COO: Coronavirus vaccine the ‘only long term solution’ for traffic recovery
London Heathrow Airport chief operating officer Emma Gilthorpe said the airport’s traffic in Mar-2020 “fell off a cliff” and “We didn’t know back in March that we were in it for the long term and it’s going to be a slow climb out until we have a vaccine”. Ms Gilthorpe said airport testing “is good”, adding a vaccine is the “only long term solution” for traffic recovery.