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.
Qantas Group CEO: Coronavirus vaccine rollout ‘feels like it’s slower than it should be’
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout “feels like it’s slower than it should be”, adding “There is a lot more work to do on vaccinations to complete the programme by the end of the year”. Mr Joyce noted: “Imagine if we put the same focus on the vaccine rollout”, with border reopening “by the end of the year seems very achievable under those circumstances”.
IATA director general sees smaller industry emerging from COVID-19
IATA director general Willie Walsh said he expects the airline industry will be “smaller” following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and he does not believe the industry will “recover all the capacity”. Mr Walsh added that he does not expect much merger and acquisition activity in the sector, as airlines are “guarded about the cash they have” and will require time to “repair their balance sheets”. Instead, consolidation will come about via airlines cutting their operations and other carriers exiting the market.
Iberia commercial director: Environmental taxes a ‘demonisation’ of airlines
Iberia commercial director Maria Jesus Lopez Solas said environmental taxes included in a plan presented by Spain’s Government to the EU to access EUR14 billion in recovery funds were “a demonisation of airlines which will penalise the whole value chain”. The Spanish Government has reportedly proposed adding an environmental tax to airfares and ending most domestic flights under two and a half hours.
Garuda Indonesia: Failure to restructure could result in ‘abrupt end’ of company
Garuda Indonesia president director Irfan Setiaputra reported the carrier must go through a “comprehensive restructuring”, including the possibility of reducing its fleet by almost half. Mr Setiaputra stated: “We have 142 aircraft and our preliminary calculation on how we see this recovery has been going, we will operate with a number of aircraft no more than 70”. He said the carrier has around IDR70 trillion (USD4.8 billion) in debt which increases by around IDR1 trillion (USD69.6 million) per month as it continues to delay payments to suppliers. Mr Setiaputra added failure to undergo a restructuring “could result in an abrupt end of the company”.
Richard Branson: Coronavirus vaccine ‘should be the number one priority’ of Australian Government
Virgin Group’s Richard Branson said the coronavirus vaccine “should be the number one priority of government” in Australia, as “Nothing else matters more to be honest”, noting it is key to resuming travel. Sir Richard said “every single business” and “every single person in Australia” will be “held back”, adding “The economy will suffer”.
Ryanair expecting ‘very strong’ bounce back in demand
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said the carrier believes there will be “a very strong” bounce back in demand, with “British families going abroad after staying at home last year”. Mr O’Leary said: “Most customers are now ignoring the Government’s mixed messages and just booking their flights”. Mr O’Leary added the carrier expects to 90% reach pre-coronavirus passenger levels by Sep-2021.
Sydney Airport CEO: Coronavirus vaccine ‘the grand bargain’
Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport CEO Geoff Culbert stated “the faster we can get the vaccine rolled out, the faster we can lift restrictions”. Mr Culbert said the airport believes it is a “common-sense and logical approach”, as well as reflecting “the grand bargain that people are essentially making by getting the vaccine – if you sign up to get the vaccine, you’re signing up to getting your life back”.
easyJet CEO does not believe ‘UK aviation as an industry can go through another lost summer’
easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said: “I don’t think that UK aviation as an industry can go through another lost summer without grave consequences”. Mr Lundgren said UK’s Government “government needs to be ready and prepared to step up to protect this industry and it has to do so because it is its restrictions that have made it impossible to operate for the players in this industry”.
Emirates president unclear on 777X timeline, will refuse delivery unless ‘100% to contract’
Emirates president Tim Clark said the airline will refuse delivery of Boeing 777X aircraft “unless it is performing 100% to contract”, adding he has not yet received engine performance specifications from the manufacturer. Sir Tim added he is “not altogether clear” about the delivery timeline for the order and does not anticipate the start of deliveries before 2024, noting the limitations the delays place on Emirates’ fleet strategy and plans for replacement of its 777-300s.
Cathay Pacific ‘not seeing immediate meaningful signs of improvements in passenger demand’
Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam stated the pace of recovery continues to be slow, with Apr-2021 passengers at a 99.3% decline compared to Apr-2019, while looking ahead it is “not seeing signs of immediate meaningful improvements in overall passenger demand”. The carrier’s overall capacity was 21% more than in Mar-2021 but it still represented a 96.8% decline compared to Apr-2019, despite Cathay “cautiously reinstated” more capacity to its network.
Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plans network, capacity growth as travel restrictions ease: CCO
Wizz Air Abh Dhabi chief commercial officer George Michalopoulos reported plans to increase capacity and expand its network amid the ongoing reduction of travel restrictions by Abu Dhabi’s Government. Mr Michalopoulos said the relaxation of quarantine requirements will “drive significant traffic” and allows the LCC to “accelerate our growth plans”, but added it is “too early” to confirm details of its operational or network growth strategy.
Copenhagen Kastrup Airport CEO: Crucial that traffic returns soon for airport to remain competitive
Copenhagen Kastrup Airport (CPH) CEO Thomas Woldbye said it is “crucial” that passenger traffic starts to return soon if the airport is to stay competitive, continue investing in sustainability, facilitate access to Denmark, and remain an attractive investment for its owners. Mr Woldbye believes the airport will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with “significantly higher operating efficiency, more digitalisation and an efficient infrastructure”. He added that SAS, which accounts for one third of traffic at the airport, has indicated that it “intends to consolidate its business at CPH”.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister: Western Sydney Airport to ‘transform aviation’
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack stated Western Sydney Airport is “going to transform aviation and many years down the track people will look back at this point in time now and say the Commonwealth has done the right thing by building this airport”. Mr McCormack said: “We are building it and they’re moving millions of tonnes of dirt around making sure that we build what is going to be the pride of the aviation industry right throughout the world”.
IATA: Lack of predictability and stability has left airline planners in ‘a continued no-man’s-land’
IATA worldwide head of airport slots Lara Maughan said the “lack of predictability and stability around each country’s plans to start their reopening has left the airline schedule and network planning teams in a continued no-man’s-land”. According to Maughan, many countries in mid-May 2021 are more restricted than at any other time in the crisis. As a result, normal slot use rules “are not appropriate in the current circumstances” where international travel is down 80% or more. She added that airlines being able to plan without the normal slot use constraints means they are in the best position to react and serve demand, build schedules for passengers, and fly where their governments will allow them to travel.
SMBC Aviation Capital CEO: Recovery will be regional and local and dominated by LCCs
SMBC Aviation Capital CEO Peter Barrett said he expects a “firmer footing” for the recovery in global aviation over the next six to 12 months, with the recovery to be regional and local and “dominated by low cost carriers, who are the people with the capacity and the ability to stimulate traffic”.
Vanuatu Tourism Office CEO: Coronavirus vaccine will ‘assure’ overseas visitors
Vanuatu Tourism Office CEO Adela Issachar Aru said Vanuatu’s coronavirus vaccination programme will “assure visitors travelling from overseas to our islands”, noting the rollout “is an important milestone in opening our borders”. Ms Issachar Aru added: “The arrival of the vaccine is fantastic news for us all, particularly our tourism operators who rely on international visitors”.
Aer Lingus London Heathrow Airports ‘slots are protected and are unaffected’
Ireland’s Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said Aer Lingus’ London Heathrow Airport “slots are protected and are unaffected” by the closure of the carrier’s Shannon base. Mr Noonan added: “Nevertheless it is regrettable that Aer Lingus has decided to close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport and to temporarily close its base at Cork Airport, as well as embark on a review of grounding-handling arrangements at those airports”.
CFO: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International seeking to increase operations in fiscal year 2022
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport assistant GM and CFO Greg Richardson said the focus of the 2022 fiscal year will be “to encourage airlines to increase frequency of operation and passenger volume” whilst encouraging food and retail outlets to “open and assist” in the COVID-19 recovery. Mr Richardson also confirmed around 55% of the airport’s USD338.5 million CARES Act funding will be used to cover airport operating costs and debt service repayments.
ICAO secretary general: Level playing field needed on sustainable fuels incentives
ICAO secretary general Dr Fang Liu, speaking at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) Ministerial meeting on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) reported the organisation has highlighted the importance of establishing a broad and level playing field between aviation and other transportation sectors on sustainable fuels incentives. Dr Liu noted that this is especially important when considering that hundreds of SAF plants will be required globally, costing hundreds of millions of dollars each, and that energy shifts on this scale require major investments and radical cooperation.
Amadeus: NDC adoption at scale ‘remains a priority at and for our partners’
Amadeus NDC industry expert Massimiliano Maini stated that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to the travel industry, the IATA New Distribution Capability (NDC) “remains a priority at and for our partners”. Amadeus added that airlines and travel agencies “realise the need for standards to improve critical servicing and communication functions, as a steppingstone to rebuild traveller confidence”. However, with multiple versions and interpretations of NCD at play, “reaching widescale adoption is more difficult than expected, but not impossible”.
Cardiff Airport CEO: Leisure travel to Europe will speed up recovery
Cardiff Airport CEO Spencer Birns said the pace of the airport’s recovery would increase when leisure travel to popular European destinations opens up. Destinations such as Greece, Italy, France and Spain are currently on the UK Government’s ‘amber’ list, meaning travellers cannot visit these countries without subsequent quarantine period. Mr Birns said he expected countries’ status to change as vaccination rates increased across Europe.