CTC – Corporate Travel Community brings you a roundup of the most thought-provoking and interesting comments from those industry leaders in the know during the recent Jun-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform.
Finnair CEO: Premium leisure will be ‘very important’ post-pandemic
Finnair president and CEO Topi Manner stated the carrier’s premium economy offering will be “very important”, particularly on trunk routes between Europe and Asia. Mr Manner said demand for a premium economy product is expected from both business class and economy customers but the carrier is “focused on the upsell”. Commenting on early demand indicators following the pandemic, he added: “There seems to be a willingness among customers to pay a little bit extra. Customers will be more focused on service, quality and personal space [and] these trends support our hypothesis on premium leisure being very important going forward”.
IATA chief economist: Aviation industry must ‘be cautious about coming back’ from COVID-19
IATA chief economist Brian Pearce stated the aviation industry will have to be “really cautious about coming back” in response to “the lack of business travel and the low yields environment”. Mr Pearce also said he believes the return of oil and fuel prices to “pre-crisis levels” is a positive, in that it will “mean management has to be quite careful about returning capacity”.
Air France-KLM SVP customer loyalty: Coronavirus verifies loyalty programme as a ‘true asset’
Air France-KLM SVP customer loyalty Frederic Kahane stated “we saw that… not only in terms of engagement… but also financially” a loyalty programme can serve as a “strong shock absorber… for the airlines”. Mr Kahane added the coronavirus crisis served as a verification of what the company has said “a couple of times already before… which is that the loyalty programme is being seen as a true asset of the group”.
AirAsia Group COO: Third lockdown in Malaysia has been ‘devastating’
AirAsia Group COO Javed Anwar Malik stated Malaysia’s third lockdown from 01-Jun-2021 has been “devastating” and has had a “huge” affect on the domestic market, with AirAsia Malaysia operating at around 9% of pre-COVID levels. Mr Malik forecast the lockdown will last four to six weeks instead of two and will have a phase down affect, with interstate and intrastate movements returning between Aug-2021 and Oct-2021. He added from there, the group expects smaller ASEAN connections to take form.
Wizz Air CEO: ‘Dozens’ of airports are ‘begging for capacity’
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi stated the airline is “seeing a lot more opportunities than capacity that we have for exploiting those opportunities”. Mr Váradi said: “We’ve got… dozens of airports coming to us pretty much begging for capacity because we are one of the very few airlines in Europe actually that can commit to such capacity growth in new markets”. He added: “We’ve been able to come up with airport arrangements that wouldn’t have been available to us under normal circumstances”.
Alaska Air Group sees ‘dramatic change’ in leisure demand recovery
Alaska Air Group CEO Ben Minicucci stated the group has seen a “dramatic” change in recovery from 1Q2021 to 2Q2021, adding leisure demand has “started to come back and has been robust ever since”, returning to 100% and more in some cases. He said business travel is “not quite there yet” but vaccinations have proven to be a catalyst in restoring travel confidence.
London Heathrow Airport CEO: Shift in airline cabin configurations would provide more passengers
London Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye stated the airport is prepared for a potential shift in airlines’ cabin configurations towards more seats in economy and premium economy, noting such a move would provide more passenger capacity. Mr Holland-Kaye added: “We are incentivised to have as many passengers as we can”. According to Mr Holland-Kaye “the pull of Heathrow and London is still enormously strong”, adding eight airlines commenced operating at the airport during the pandemic. Mr Holland-Kaye said the airport has “a list of others who would like to come in, but they can’t get the slots they’d like to operate”.
Qatar Airways CCO: Route decisions increasingly about the passenger and cargo demand mix
Qatar Airways CCO Thierry Antinori, stated: “It’s a lot about agility and changing the plan every day, and what is very new is we have [to integrate] with cargo. You do not make a decision now to resume a flight just because there is passenger demand; it’s because with the combination of passenger and cargo revenue you can cover your direct operating costs.”
JAL director: Acceleration of vaccination programme in Japan to drive recovery of domestic travel
Japan Airlines (JAL) director Tadashi Fujita stated JAL’s domestic passenger traffic levels are approximately 30% of the same period in 2019, while international passenger traffic is approximately 5% of the same period in 2019. Mr Fujita noted that Japan’s Government plans to accelerate its vaccination programme from Jun-2021, and said this is expected to drive further recovery of domestic travel demand.
Viva CEO: Becoming the world’s lowest cost per passenger carrier is achievable by 2024/25
Viva CEO Felix Antelo stated “becoming the lowest cost per passenger carrier in the world is achievable” by 2024 or 2025, when the carrier expects to have a fleet of 50 A320neos. Mr Antelo added: “We have, in my opinion, the best aircraft in the world, we have high utilisation and we are based in a region where the cost base is way lower than the US or Europe”.
Widerøe remains hopeful about Rolls-Royce electric aircraft amid fleet overhaul plan: CEO
Widerøe CEO Stein Nilsen stated the carrier hopes to be among the first to operate zero emission aircraft by 2025-2027 in partnership with Rolls-Royce and Tecnam, noting Widerøe has “suitable” routes for the initial nine seater concept. Commenting on the company’s ongoing focus on low to zero emission aircraft, Mr Nilsen added: “The DHC-8-100/200 will end its lifespan in 2030-2035. We have to invest in a new aircraft type [and] it’s very hard for us to make a large investment in 25-30 aircraft with old technology”.
Changi Airport Group: Traffic ‘quite steady’ at 3% of pre COVID levels
Changi Airport Group (CAG) MD air hub development Ching Kiat Lim stated passenger traffic at the airport has been “quite steady” at 3% of pre-COVID levels, adding flight movements, including cargo, are at around one quarter of pre-COVID levels. Mr Lim said border closures in Singapore and other countries at the start of the pandemic led CAG to consolidate its terminal footprint. He added: “We have always worked very closely as a community. So I think with the support from the airlines, the ground handlers, security staff, we are adjusting well to the new changes”.
AACO calls for transparency among governments to help ease travel restrictions
AACO Secretary General Abdul Wahab Teffaha stated: “If governments, especially health ministries, are transparent and saying ‘these are the criteria’ I think the situation will ease tremendously – if restrictions ease, people are going to fly, and fly massively”.
Hong Kong Airlines VP: Passenger operations will not develop until at least end of 2021
Hong Kong Airlines VP Ben Wong stated the carrier has shifted focus to a local regional strategy for the time being “to cope with pandemic difficulties”. Mr Wong forecast passenger services will not increase before at least the end of 2021, adding: “We have reduced our fleet size and are operating around eight aircraft”. He stated the carrier is relying on cargo services as revenue from passenger operations has “really, really diminished”.
Seattle-Tacoma Airport ‘very optimistic coming out of the pandemic’ due to leisure: MD
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport MD and Port of Seattle aviation division MD Lance Lyttle stated the airport is experiencing a “steady recovery” from COVID-19 and is “very optimistic coming out of the pandemic”. Mr Lyttle also stated that “unlike… 9/11 and the great recession”, the airport’s recovery has been “led by leisure”. Airport officials are expecting to handle around 90% of 2019 pre-pandemic traffic by summer 2022.