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 Jan-2020 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.
Travelling public will become ‘extremely digitally savvy’ post-COVID-19, but there are certain things you cannot do virtually
Swissport incoming chairperson Christoph Mueller said he foresees that the travelling public will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis “extremely digitally savvy” and “very demanding when it comes to touchless procedures”. He continued: “We have to look into the future and look at these opportunities”, such as participating in COVID-19 testing processes at airports. Mr Mueller described a “backlog” of demand for business, VFR and tourism traffic in the context of COVID-19. He said VFR traffic will not be in depression “when the danger is gone”, that tourism “will bounce back” and that business travel “will be muted” but will not go away entirely. “If there is no danger, people will start travelling again… there are certain things you cannot do virtually”, Mr Mueller continued.
IATA: Air travel industry should expect ‘a multi year recovery’ from COVID-19
IATA chief economist Brian Pearce stated “we’ve seen in a number of cases that whenever travel restrictions have been relaxed there has been a surge of bookings, particularly for VFR and leisure travel”. Mr Pearce said this demonstrates “there is pent up demand” for air travel, but emphasised that the air travel industry is looking at “a multi year recovery, rather than a recovery within several months”.
Azul: Corporate travel market in Brazil ‘will be over 100% because the market is growing’
Azul CRO Abhi Shah commented on the corporate travel market in Brazil, stating: “If people ask me will corporate ever be back to 100%. Yes, it will be over 100% because the [Brazilian] market is growing, it will be back maybe a year later, but it is going to be over 100% because the market is growing”.
Spirit Airlines: Loyalty programme ‘allows us to be in the game’
Spirit Airlines executive VP and CCO Matt Klein stated the carrier’s loyalty programme incorporates what are “some of the best aspects of programmes that are in the industry today”. Mr Klein said: “While the aspects that we are introducing aren’t in and of themselves necessarily new, a lot of the features have existed at other airlines for a long time, we’re one of the first, if not the first, to put it all together into one piece”. He added: “A loyalty programme for us really ‘allows us to be in the game for a number of customers who for lack of a better term require a loyalty programme”.
AirAsia.com CEO: ‘Points will be the new currency’
AirAsia.com CEO Karen Chan stated “We don’t want to be seen as a frequent flyer programme but rather a lifestyle partner”. Ms Chan added: “We need to stay relevant and points will be the new currency on AirAsia.com”. She said: “Loyalty is very important” but is also just one piece of the puzzle”, adding: “It’s also about data exchange and we have high quality primary data”.
Qatar Airways CEO: 2024 a realistic timeframe for return to 2019 traffic levels
Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker stated he realistically expects a return to 2019 traffic levels in 2024, based on the current circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Mr Al Baker added that changing conditions, such as a new virus strain, could extend the forecast beyond 2024. He does not expect any permanent change the airline’s passenger demographics as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Al Baker commented: “I think this is only temporary”, adding that “people will eventually forget about this pandemic” or people will find a way around the pandemic restrictions.
Allegiant: Customer group throughout 2020 has ‘skewed a little bit younger’
Allegiant Travel Company VP fleet planning and corporate finance Robert Neal stated the carrier’s customer group throughout 2020 has “certainly skewed a little bit younger than it had been in the past”. Mr Neal said: “Let’s see what that looks like in 2021. I think it’s probably too early to tell”, adding: “I think vaccines will make a difference”.
AirAsia Group sees ‘massive pent up travel demand’ after lockdown reductions
AirAsia Group COO Javed Anwar Malik stated the group has experienced “massive pent up travel demand” each time lockdowns have been reduced in the ASEAN region. Mr Malik said: “People want to travel but what they’re looking for is a higher level of confidence and trust in processes and systems and the safety of the entire journey”. He added: “The joy of travel needs to be added to the safety of travel”. He said COVID-19 vaccine adoption in Asia “may not be as fast” due to “extreme cultures and beliefs” in the region. Mr Malik added: “Ultimately if the vaccine is mandated that itself will force a different volume but if it is a choice we won’t see as high of an adoption in certain markets in Asia”.
Hawaiian Airlines: Figuring out the role of testing will be critical to reactivation of industry
Hawaiian Airlines SVP revenue management and network planning Brent Overbeek commented on the path towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, stating: “I don’t think you’re going to see big gatherings come back in the middle of this year, even as vaccines role out”. He added: “[Hawaii] may come back a little bit quicker [from the COVID-19 pandemic], going under the assumption that we’re likely to remain testing here in the state of Hawaii probably for a while”. He concluded that “figuring out” what role COVID-19 testing will have in the travel industry “I think will be really critical ultimately to the success not just of the airlines but other places where you have large gatherings”.
Avianca: ‘One month is long term’ in route planning during the pandemic
Avianca CCO Silvia Mosquera commented on the challenges of planning in the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, stating: “We need to change completely our processes because now one month is long term”. She added: “We need to adjust continuously our schedule due to the restrictions imposed by governments that can change every week”. Ms Mosquera gave an example: “One week ago we had to cancel all our flights to London during January, so we need to adapt our schedule to these restrictions”.
Ishka: LCCs serving large domestic markets remain favourably positioned
Ishka analyst Siddharth Narkhede stated “after some brief recovery during the summer months, recovery stalled quite a bit in the final quarter of 2020, particularly in Europe”. Mr Narkhede noted “China, Russia, India, Mexico and Brazil have all seen strong recovery of domestic travel emerging from the peak of the lockdowns”. He added that leisure airlines and LCCs primarily operating within large domestic markets remain the most favourably positioned carriers in the aviation sector in 2021.
CityJet ‘optimistic’ moving into summer 2021: CEO
CityJet CEO and executive chairman Patrick Byrne said the company is “optimistic” in its outlook moving into summer 2021. He continued: “We’re looking to forward to early summer with an uplift by then”, depending on vaccine rollout and seasonal change. Mr Byrne also noted CityJet is “confident” in its Bombardier CRJ900 fleet. He explained this gauge is “going to be the one that will be most in demand soonest” due to low traffic loads, a “critical eye” on trip cost and the desire for airlines to retain slots and market share. “We think that we’ll be in a very strong position to provide the capacity needed”, Mr Byrne concluded.
London Gatwick Airport VP airline relations: Passenger confidence ‘really important’
London Gatwick Airport VP airline relations Stephen King stated businesses “had to find a different way of doing things… particularly across travel”. Mr King said many businesses, “as we have at Gatwick”, have had to evaluate their business size and adapt the size of their workforce. Mr King added it is “really important passengers feel confident” throughout the travel process, with the airport looking at “innovations that we can put in place” to build passenger confidence.
Collinson Group: Asia Pacific ‘more prepared’ than any other region for COVID-19 impacts
Collinson Group president Asia Pacific Todd Hancock stated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic “decimating the industry”, the Asia Pacific region was regarded as the “biggest opportunity for aviation growth in the world”. Mr Hancock added: “While the impact can not be understated its clear the Asia Pacific region was more prepared than any other having dealt with similar issues in the past”.
easyJet director airport development and procurement: 2021 key trends to be around confidence
easyJet director airport development and procurement Simon Cox stated key trends throughout 2021 will be “around confidence and certainty”. Mr Cox said there will be additional certainty regarding quarantine, vaccination rollout and testing regimes.
Bernstein Research expects demand in Europe to pick up some time during Easter 2021
Bernstein Research MD and senior analyst Daniel Roeska said he expects demand in Europe to pick up some time around or after Easter 2021. “That’s really when we’ll start to see bookings flow in for summer… we still have a couple of weeks for governments to wake up and smell the roses, and behave a little bit more normally”, Mr Roeska continued.
Mumbai Airport: COVID-19 taught us airports should maintain adequate financial reserves
Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport CEO Rajeev Jain stated one of the lessons the airport has learned from the impact of COVID-19 on its revenue during the peak of the crisis is that airports need to maintain sufficient financial reserves to adequately fund airport operations in the event of calamities like the global pandemic. Mr Jain said: “Thankfully India’s Government extended some relief by placing a moratorium on the repayment of loans and interest, that was a great help, at least we could meet our operating expenses”.
Davy Research: LCCs will gain ‘significant market share’ as a result of COVID-19 crisis
Davy Research senior equity analyst Stephen Furlong said he expects LCCs will gain “significant market share” as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. He added that LCCs “will be back quicker” to 2019 business platform levels. Mr Furlong also said he expects a normalisation of air traffic on short haul in Europe from summer 2022 as the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine continues.