Good morning, afternoon or evening depending on where you are in the world.
I will add just a few comments to Brian’s presentation.
I want to emphasize the context of Brian’s assessment that we hit rock bottom in April. Things cannot get much worse than a 95% fall in traffic. A 30% increase in flights may sound impressive. But on that level of decline it still means that we have a gap of well over 90% to cover.
The optimistic part of me sees this as green shoots. The realistic part of me knows that we will likely have a long and very difficult challenge to return this industry to normal.
People have not lost the desire to travel. They still want to see their family and friends. They still desire to explore the world. They will need to meet in person to do business globally.
There will be at least two kinds of headwinds.
- The first is economic. Governments have provided stimulus money to get the economy moving again. And we are seeing business confidence improving. Individuals and companies that have survived without travel expenses for several months may re-assess their travel priorities. Against that we will surely see many promotions and incentives to encourage travel. We can be reasonably confident in overcoming this hurdle.
- The second is confidence. And this will be the bigger challenge.
- Governments will need the confidence to re-open borders without imposing onerous quarantine measures. If governments impose quarantine measures, it is equal to keeping their borders closed and industry grounded.
- And individual travelers will need the confidence that travel itself poses no great risks than other activities; and that they won’t face quarantine or disruption on arrival
There are a couple of positive developments to highlight
- The first is the discussion of air bridges or travel bubbles. We see this concept being discussed in various parts of the world—including the UK with European countries and in Austral-Asia. The idea is to establish connectivity among regions with similarly low rates of infection. As a temporary re-start measure, we support this discussion if it opens border to at least some traffic more quickly than would otherwise happen.
- On Monday we also saw the publication of Takeoff by ICAO’s COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force (also known as CART). Takeoff is a comprehensive series of guidelines for mitigating the risk of transmission across the air travel experience for passengers and aviation workers.
I cannot overstate the importance of the Takeoff guidance. It is a global way forward for aviation. The recommendations take into consideration the expertise of regulators, the World Health Organization and those in the business—airports, airlines, manufacturers etc.
They were put together in record time. For that we must congratulate ICAO and all the organizations involved.
But guidelines mean nothing if they are not implemented. And that is our main message to governments. We have seen the urgency with which some governments have tried to restart aviation. In some cases we have seen measures which are impractical.
Now we have Takeoff as a global set of guidance endorsed by governments. That must be the basis on which everybody proceeds. It is the only way to have a harmonized approach that will give travelers the confidence to take to the skies again.