Good afternoon, morning or evening. Thank you for joining us on today’s briefing.
Brian has provided a comprehensive view on what is happening with demand for travel. The situation is grim. There was more flying in June, but still demand was down 86.5% on 2019 levels. It may be an improvement, but we are still in a very deep crisis. And it does not appear that it will end any time soon.
Improvements have been in domestic markets led by China, which was down 35.5% on 2019 levels. US domestic flying was still 80% below a year ago. And international demand is still down over 95%.
The slow speed of improvement is telling us that the recovery will take a year longer than we previously expected:
- We now think it will be 2024 before RPKs return to 2019 levels. And this could slip further if we have setbacks in containing the virus or finding a vaccine.
- Because we expect more short-haul flying in the recovery phase, passenger numbers could return to 2019 levels earlier than RPKs—by 2023. And this is also a year later than we previously thought.
Considering this worsening traffic outlook, I’d like to comment on two areas before we open for questions:
- What to do about travel restrictions?
- What are the implications of a longer recovery?
Travel restrictions are the most immediate problem. Our challenge is to learn to live with this virus. But most of the world remains closed with severe restrictions on movement. Keeping travel and tourism, which is 10% of the global economy, in lockdown does not qualify as progress towards learning to live with the virus. The UK’s start-stop approach to lifting and re-imposing restrictions does not qualify either.
People need to see governments working together so that they can safely get on with more normal lives. For tens of millions that means resuming jobs in the travel and tourism sector. And for hundreds of millions more that means the ability to travel.
It is not just the industry saying this. Yesterday the WHO said that travel restrictions are not sustainable. I could not agree more.
The ICAO guidance on safely re-starting aviation is designed to manage the risks of re-connecting people and economies during COVID-19. Its multiple layers include screening people prior to travel and measures to avoid transmission in flight. And if governments can implement comprehensive contact tracing we will be able to isolate and test to stop community spread from anybody—travelers or others.
The immediate top priority in combatting travel restrictions is implementing the ICAO guidance and establishing contact tracing.
It is also becoming increasingly apparent that COVID-19 testing will need to play a role in facilitating travel. I am not suggesting that testing should be a blanket requirement for re-opening.
- But there are already tests that are accurate enough to be used to facilitate the relaxing of travel restrictions if they are taken 24-28 hours before travelers head to the airport.
- And as tests become even, faster and scalable, these could take place closer to the traveler’s flight time and in the vicinity of the airport.
The second point that I need to make is on the continued need for relief measures. A slower recovery will put more airlines in financial peril. And, as we have said many times in these briefings, government relief measures are essential.
- Part of that is direct financial assistance. Given the ballooning debt burden that the industry has taken on, this must be in ways that don’t do further damage to the balance sheet.
- The other part is regulatory relief. Here the most pressing issue is alleviation from the 80-20 use-it-or-lose-it rule for slot allocation. The situation is so volatile that it is next to impossible to predict accurately how demand will develop over the next months. Adding the extra burden of planning a schedule today to secure slots that an airline may need in 2021 or 2022 makes little sense.
We are urgently asking for a full waiver of the 80-20 rule for the northern winter schedule. Governments have understood this need for the current summer schedule and seem to be agreeing of the need for the next season, but to plan, optimism or intention is not enough. That is why we are asking governments to urgently confirm a waiver to prevent airlines entering a state of planning paralysis.
With that, I am happy to take your questions.