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.
Air France-KLM CEO: A lot of carriers will not survive the pandemic
Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith said he expects that “a lot of carriers” will not survive the coronavirus pandemic, noting that there were multiple carriers that were already “not viable prior to the crisis”.
AAPA: ‘We will need to learn to live with COVID-19’ making global standards imperative
Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) director general Subhas Menon said the restart of travel between Australia and New Zealand is “certainly a welcome step” and along with the quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Hong Kong announced for end May-2021 and more travel bubbles in the pipeline “provide hope for a gradual restart of international air travel this year”. Mr Menon said it is “apparent that we will need to learn to live with COVID-19”, making it “imperative that governments across the world embrace harmonised risk-based measures that safely reopen air travel”.
easyJet CEO: Rapid digital upgrades one of the silver linings from the pandemic
easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the rapid introduction of new digital platforms needed to respond to the level of disrupted operations and passenger refund claims has been one of the “silver linings” from the COVID-19 crisis, and he expects digitalisation will mean airlines will emerge from the pandemic more efficient than when they went in. Mr Lundgren also said the carrier has “reset” its cost bases following its investment in self-service capabilities for its booking system.
Australia’s Government: ‘Australian aviation is once again booming’
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, in conjunction with Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Dan Tehan, said “Australian aviation is once again booming” due to more than AUD3.8 billion (USD2.9 billion) of government funding for the industry since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Mr McCormack stated: “The proof is there in the sky today, as we see Qantas, Virgin, Rex and so many other smaller airlines flying proudly”. Mr Tehan added more than 75% of the Australian Government’s half priced fares are sold.
Boeing CEO: 2021 is a key inflection point for our industry
Boeing president and CEO Dave Calhoun, via an update to employees, said the company views 2021 as a “key inflection point for our industry” as COVID-19 vaccine distribution accelerates and Boeing works across government and industry to help enable a robust recovery. For Boeing Commercial Airplanes business, the company was “encouraged to see operators begin to invest in the long term again” said Mr Calhoun, with positive net orders in the quarter, including key contracts with Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines for 737 MAX aircraft. Mr Calhoun also reported the company has made “important progress across our business transformation”.
British Airways CEO: ‘The future remains uncertain for our industry’
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said: “Every time restrictions are relaxed, we see a spike in bookings”, adding passengers who return from a ‘green’ country and are vaccinated for coronavirus “should be allowed to travel without restriction”. Mr Doyle called for “swift action on so-called vaccine passports, able to hold vaccination and testing certificates”, and said for passengers who have not been vaccinated “a single rapid COVID test can detect almost all cases”. Mr Doyle noted: “The future remains uncertain for our industry and my fear is that if the Government doesn’t make safe travel simpler, there will be more job losses and more businesses will be lost”.
Southwest Airlines CEO: ‘We believe the worst is behind us’
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly reported the carrier benefitted from temporary cost relief as a result of PSP Extension proceeds in 1Q2021, resulting in net income of USD116 million. Mr Kelly stated: “We believe the worst is behind us, in terms of the severity of the negative impact on travel demand”. He added: “As a result, we are experiencing steady weekly improvements in domestic leisure bookings”, which began in mid Feb-2021.
ACI World: Aviation industry needs to recognise ‘interdependence key to recovery’
Airports Council International (ACI) World director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said it is “crucial” the aviation sector recognise that “industry interdependence [is] key to recovery” and ensure it works “hand in hand with ICAO and international health organisations to ensure a coordinated recovery while providing crucial reassurance to travellers and staff”.
Finnair expecting demand to gradually recover from late summer 2021
Finnair reported due to continued strict travel restrictions, the comparable operating loss in 2Q2021 will be of a “similar magnitude as in four previous quarters”. CEO Topi Manner stated: “We are currently expecting that demand will gradually recover starting from late summer driven by improved vaccination coverage and expected easing of travel restrictions”. Mr Manner said the EU Digital Green Certificate, planned to launch by the end of Jun-2021, will play an “important role in the return of free movement within the EU”. He added: “The first eligibility trainings of our furloughed pilots and cabin crew have commenced quite recently. Finnair expects to operate to over 60 destinations during the summer, and we will be modifying our traffic programme based on demand during the summer”.
Ryanair DAC CEO: ‘There’s going to be primary and secondary airports’ in ‘a lot of pain’
Ryanair DAC CEO Eddie Wilson said: “There’s going to be a lot less capacity around”, adding “I think airports in some places haven’t really woken up to the fact that a lot of airlines have gone bust and the issue of state support means carriers like Lufthansa and Air France are going to try to protect their home markets”. Mr Wilson said: “There’s going to be primary and secondary airports” which will be in “a lot of pain next winter and particularly next summer when they realize there’s no traffic”.
Melbourne Tullamarine Airport CEO: ‘people clearly want to fly interstate’
Melbourne Tullamarine Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said “people clearly want to fly interstate and confidence is growing as COVID outbreaks are managed”, with statistics showing “pent-up demand”. Mr Strambi said after Brisbane’s coronavirus lockdown for a three day period, passengers are “now adjusting bookings in response to restrictions”, in contrast to when passengers were previously “cancelling plans all together”.
JetBlue sees ‘bigger than expected’ demand for leisure travel from mid Feb-2021
JetBlue Airways president and COO Joanna Geraghty stated the carrier saw a “bigger than expected” step up in demand for leisure travel beginning in mid Feb-2021. Ms Geraghty said the carrier’s planning assumption for 2Q2021 is a revenue decline of between 30% and 35% year-over-two, the largest sequential improvement since the start of the pandemic. She added JetBlue expects unit revenue to “significantly improve, driven by both increasing load factors and improving yields”. The planning assumption for 2Q2021 is for capacity to decline by approximately 15% year over two, given the “strong” sequential improvement in demand.
GoAir ‘strongly positioned to emerge as a very strong second player’ in India’s LCC segment: CEO
GoAir CEO Kaushik Khona stated “while the sector is facing temporary headwinds, we at GoAir believe that the airline is uniquely placed with its inherent ultra-low-cost structure”. Mr Khona said GoAir is “strongly positioned to emerge as a very strong second player” in India’s LCC segment, as it will be “focusing on a little more price-sensitive customer base” than the market leader.
VINCI Airports: Sustainable biofuels a ‘short term solution to decarbonise aviation’
VINCI Concessions CEO and chairman of VINCI Airports Nicolas Notebaert said sustainable biofuels represent a “short term solution to decarbonise aviation”, and are an “integral part of the ambitious environmental strategy we have been pursuing since 2015 to reduce our carbon footprint and involve our stakeholders in this same movement”.
Wizz Air ready to increase capacity as ‘quickly as we can’: CCO
Wizz Air CCO George Michalopoulos stated the airline is prepared to increase capacity as “quickly as we can”. Mr Michalopoulos said: “I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the long term. Vaccination rates are slower than expected, but we’re getting there”. He added: “The real question for us is more in the short term, and governments appear to be extremely reluctant to give any sort of visibility beyond a few weeks. That makes life incredibly difficult for airlines and passengers”.
Immigration New Zealand manager: There are ‘lessons that we can learn’ for trans Tasman bubble
Immigration New Zealand manager Peter Elms said there are “bound to be things that we need to improve” for quarantine free New Zealand-Australia travel, as well as “lessons that we can learn”. Mr Elms said “there are some safeguards in place”, including the reliance on “people’s honesty and integrity”, airlines which ask questions on behalf of the government, as well as passenger screening by border agencies.
Etihad Airways will no longer operate Boeing 777-300ER after 2021: CEO
Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas confirmed it will no longer operate Boeing 777-300ERs after 2021, in line with its plan to restructure as a smaller airline and return to profit by 2023. Mr Douglas outlined plans for a “very disciplined operating model” focused on its Boeing 787 and A350-1000 fleet. The airline has taken delivery of 40 787s and five A350s with 15 remaining on order.
Fayetteville Airport CEO: ‘We will eventually grow into any market we used to have’
Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport reportedly postponed a USD100 million concourse expansion and USD7 million baggage claim and arrival area upgrade due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Airport CEO Aaron Burkes stated: “We will eventually grow into any market we used to have… We are going to be a one million enplanement airport in the not so distant future regardless of some of these potential permanent changes in business travel”.