BOSTON—Global airlines ended their first meeting on Tuesday as the COVID-19 lockdown brought their industry to its knees, voicing optimism about a surge in demand but desperate for governments to harmonize border rules. To avoid going back into recession.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a grouping of 290 airlines, said confusion over travel restrictions was stalling the industry’s fragile recovery, as the lockdown plunged air travel into its worst recession.
“People want to fly. We’ve seen strong evidence of that,” Director General Willie Walsh said. “They can’t fly because we have restrictions that hinder international travel.”
IATA expects international travel to double next year and reach 44 percent of pre-crisis 2019 levels compared to depression levels seen during the pandemic. In contrast, domestic travel is tipped to reach 93 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The trade group, which includes dozens of state-owned carriers, blamed that gap on sweeping changes in entry rules and testing requirements in the top 50 air travel markets.
Even some airline and leasing company leaders trying to attend the industry’s annual gathering in Boston were unable to travel or had to take extra time to quarantine.
Airlines called for an end to restrictions on vaccinated passengers and for common health protocols at borders, although global coordination in aviation moves at a deliberate pace.
“Clearly, governments have not made it easy for airlines or the traveling public to understand that,” said Joanna Geraghty, president of JetBlue who hosted the gathering at a hotel shared with domestic tourists. What are the rules?”
Still, the head of the Emirate of Dubai, which has been one of the sharpest officials on the prospects for recovery once the restrictions are lifted, said bookings in reopening markets like the UK and the United States are “rapid”. had grown.”
“This reflects the bow-wave of demand we are seeing everywhere,” said its president, Tim Clark. “Demand for air travel will automatically be restored … sooner than later.”
Airlines were buoyed by the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the United States in November, on a crucial trans-Atlantic run for air travelers from 33 countries, including Europe.
But the airlines skipped the Boston gathering after they arrived with severely strained balance sheets, and Clark said most would remain risk-averse and focus on recovering cash for two to three years.
IATA warned that serious challenges remained for carriers, while expressing frustration at airports and other suppliers for not doing enough to share the pain caused by the crisis.
While the White House has not set a date for lifting the travel ban on Europeans, JetBlue expects it to happen before the US Thanksgiving holiday next month.
“If there is a delay in reopening, we are going to face consequences across the industry,” Chief Executive Robin Hayes said after chairing the October 3-5 conference, which also focused on the goal of reaching net zero emissions in 2050. agreed.
United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby said last week bookings for trans-Atlantic flights were higher than in the same period in 2019.
Aircap, the world’s largest leasing company, said the reopening of the world’s most important long-haul market would set a trend for other markets to follow.
“Airlines … they don’t have the flexibility,” chief executive Angus Kelly told an audience of airline leaders. “They can’t afford to be mistaken for it.”
By Rajesh Kumar Singh and Tim Hepfer
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times