CTC – Corporate Travel Community brings you a roundup of the most thought-provoking and interesting comments from those industry leaders in the know.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson: ‘Vaccination is everything’
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said “hopefully” a “proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine” will be implemented, noting that “Vaccination is everything”. Sir Richard said once vulnerable members of the community have been immunised “I would hope in three or four months time…we can start looking forward to late spring or summer beginning to get back to normality again”.
American Express GBT: Renewed border restrictions ‘will make things catastrophic for the industry’
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) chief commercial officer Andrew Crawley said the introduction of revised lockdowns and tighter immigration rules by European states “will make things catastrophic for the industry”. A number of governments, including the UK, Sweden, Belgium and Germany, have implemented new restrictions or announced tighter rules are due to be introduced or under consideration.
easyJet CEO: ‘I think it will take until 2023 to get back to previous levels’
easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said: “I think it will take until 2023 to get back to previous levels”, adding the “single factor that constrains customers from booking and travelling is restrictions like quarantine”. Mr Lundgren said governments must provide a roadmap to the easing of travel restrictions, and called for cost effective coronavirus testing. Mr Lundgren said: “We don’t want to hit normal, hard-working families for whom holidays were not available before companies like easyJet”.
American Express CEO sees summer rush for air travel, slower business travel spending recovery
American Express CEO Stephen Squeri said he expects a “rush for people to travel, especially air travel” over the Jun-2021 through Sep-2021 northern summer travel season. American Express projects that travel and expenditure (T&E) spending by consumers will recover to around 70% of 4Q2019 levels by 4Q2021. Corporate T&E spending is expected to take longer, particularly at large enterprises.
Deutsche Post DHL: Last mile, not airfreight, the key problem with vaccine delivery
Deutsche Post DHL CEO Frank Appel reported the issue with COVID-19 vaccine delivery is not “a problem of global logistics”, but rather a problem of last mile logistics due to the need to keep the vaccines stored at very low temperatures. It is “also difficult to scale capacity so rapidly because nobody knew which vaccine would work”.
Rex chairman: ‘Together as a team, we can do things that Qantas can never match’
Regional Express (Rex) chairman Lim Kim Hai said the carrier has a “champion team”, with its management team mostly working at Rex “since I started in 2002… Probably none have been with me for less than 15 years”. Mr Lim said: “Together as a team, we can do things that Qantas can never match”, adding he expects “we will get hit” by pricing competition form Qantas, however “the question is ‘can even Qantas sustain such a price war? Can they stomach it when they are now in a position where they are already severely weakened?'”.
Amadeus sees shorter traveller booking windows across the travel industry
Amadeus SVP online travel Americas Eduardo Schutte, via the official Amadeus blog, reported shorter booking windows across the board for the travel industry. According to data from the Amadeus Demand 360 business intelligence solution, forward looking booked hotel occupancy (14 days prior to arrival) for the 2020 US Labor Day weekend reached 135% of 2019 levels. Mr Schutte reported a “definite recovery in people booking hotels” when comparing bookings for the weekends of Memorial Day on 25-May-2020, Independence Day on 04-Jul-2020 and Labor Day on 09-Sep-2020. Most bookings were made within three days prior to arrival, with bookings in this period up 109% year-on-year.
Lufthansa Group CEO: European airlines will ‘do whatever it takes’ to protect airport slots
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said European carriers that rely on hub systems will “do whatever it takes to safeguard their slots” in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. He added: “If we have to fly empty, we’ll probably offer EUR9 tickets ourselves to keep those flights in the system”.
APEX: Some passengers have hygiene hesitancy about IFE and aircraft interiors
Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) CEO Joe Leader stated one of the biggest concerns for airlines in attracting flyers back onboard is the hesitancy of hygiene-minded passengers to interact with inflight entertainment (IFE) screens and aircraft interiors. Mr Leader said some airlines may be considering eliminating fixed screens altogether, in favour of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) as an interface for IFE. Others see BYOD as a complement to seat-back screens, acting as controller, as a multi-screening tool, or as another way to access the full suite of IFE and connectivity options. He noted that technology supplies are creating solutions that pair customers’ on-the-ground profiles with their inflight ones. An alternative solution could be mirroring; allowing seat-back screens to display what is shown on a phone or tablet screen.
Qantas CEO: ‘India is always a hard market to service’
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said: “India is always a hard market to service, because Indian traffic is spread through so many different cities in India” with the carrier attempting to serve the market “in a number of different ways previously… it never made any money”. Mr Joyce said: “We think at some stage, India…will get to a sustainable service”, with plans to add the service when it reaches that point.
Croatia Airlines CEO: Smaller airlines can be ‘more daring’ during COVID-19
Croatia Airlines CEO Jasmin Bajić said the advantage of being a small airline during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it can be more flexible and “more daring” in taking on new opportunities in the market. “There is a downside as well… there are fewer means for investment compared to the bigger carriers”, Mr Bajić noted.
CWT: Unified approach needed in approach to creating solution for COVID-19 safe air travel
CWT senior director, innovation business development Brandon Balcom stated there is a need for a unified approach to creating a solution COVID-19 safe air travel. He noted his belief is that “we are in a somewhat necessary but risky period of hyper-competition to find the best path forward and best components of an ideal solution”, with a risk of creating a “patchwork scenario where an individual has to follow a different process or use a different app every time they travel based on their itinerary”.
AGS Airports CEO: ‘by any standard the Government have closed down the aviation sector completely’
AGS Airports CEO Derek Provan said “by any standard the UK Government have closed down the aviation sector completely” due to travel restrictions, noting “we are likely to be the last ones coming out of this”. Mr Provan called on “the Government to speak to us, engage with us, and help us create a plan to come out from this for the longer term”, as well as provide financial assistance. Mr Provan said: “Any plan that still has quarantine is a lockdown or travel ban for the industry”, and called for the removal of air passenger duty. Mr Provan added the “safest way” to move forward is clear coronavirus testing, as it is “97% to 99% effective”.
New Zealand Prime Minister: ‘we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year’
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year” due to coronavirus. Ms Ardern said the restrictions are due to “risks in the world around us” and uncertainty regarding the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations. Ms Ardern added New Zealand will “continue to pursue travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific”, noting the “rest of the world simply poses too great a risk” to New Zealand’s economy and health.
Helvetic Airways CEO: Business travel to decrease ‘significantly’ in the coming years
Helvetic Airways CEO Tobias Pogorevc said business travel is expected to decrease “significantly” in the coming years, both on long haul routes and across Europe. He noted however that physical presence is important for decentralised companies and sales, especially in Asia. Overall, Mr Pogorevc said the carrier is not expecting to reach pre-coronavirus level before 2024, with growth rates and passenger flows thereafter to be much smaller than forecast before COVID-19.