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Coronavirus: Appetite to fly is still strong, says Iata director general

Issac John /Dubai
issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com Filed on June 5, 2020
airlines, aviation, air travel, coronavirus, covid19

(Reuters file)

'The main obstacle is the restrictions on flights imposed by governments and quarantines measures'

The demand for air travel has started to come back as the appetite to fly is still strong, Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac said.

Discussing a rebound in demand for international air travel and the need for airlines to continue cutting cost to stay afloat, the Iata chief said in a television interview that a survey on passengers' concerns showed there is strong appetite to fly. "We are not surprised."

"However, the main obstacle we see now to restart air travel industry is the restrictions on flights imposed by the governments and quarantines measures. As soon as you open borders, lift restrictions and do away with strict quarantine measures you will see flights coming back," said de Juniac.

Also read: UAE carriers to connect 49 cities in 10 days

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline, has said air travel is likely to return to normal in summer 2021, provided a vaccine for Covid-19  would be discovered in the first quarter of next year.

The Iata chief urged airlines across the globe to put in place cost reduction plans as they resume at first domestic operations, followed by regional and international flights. "However, it can only be expected at 50 to 60 per cent volumes of 2019 level. The question is at these levels whether airlines can generate cash and earn money. Their survival, therefore depends on the level of cost cutting plans and the speed of implementing those," said de Juniac.

On concerns that airlines are being dragged into escalating tensions between the US and China, he said since the industry is "heavily dependent on government decisions, it likely to be a hostage to the political games."

De Juniac said one of the key successes to be achieved in recent days is the guideline established jointly with ICAO on health check process of passengers. He believes the new guidelines developed by an ICAO task force strikes "the right compromise" between airline economic concerns and the safe restart of passenger traffic, and urged governments to rapidly implement them.

ICAO stops short of requiring airlines to leave middle seats vacant to enable social distancing on flights, but suggests that carriers "should allow for separated seating arrangements when occupancy allows it."

Angel Gittens, director general of Airports Council International - which has also backed the guidelines - said much will depend on the volume and layout of each airport.

"At a large airport with low volume, there should not be much more time needed for the passenger to come to the airport, to keep the physical distancing and other requirements. At a smaller airport, or an airport that has peaking, I would say it's going to be another hour, even two hours, for the passengers to come to the airport," said Gittens.

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com 

author

Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.


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