Good afternoon from Geneva. I will keep my remarks very short so that we can get to questions.
The cliché is that it is always darkest before dawn. That seems fitting for today’s messages.
Brian has described the darkness. Airline financial prospects are worsening as governments tighten travel restrictions. Burning a further $75 billion to $95 billion this year is not something that the industry will be able to withstand without additional relief from governments. And the expectation that the industry will not turn cash-positive until 2022 is yet another reminder of the severity of the crisis.
The dawn is being heralded by good news on vaccine distribution and growing testing capacity. Whether the vaccination timelines lead to an early re-opening or a late one, the work ahead of us is the same:
- We need to plan for the recovery
- We will need a way to digitally manage health credentials, and
- We need secure global standards to record test results and vaccinations
On planning, the UK has set a good example by laying out their restart plans. After nearly a year of crisis, it will take time for airlines to restart. And we can do that most efficiently with an understanding of how governments see the road ahead. Other governments should take a good look at what the UK has done.
With respect to health credentials these past weeks have seen more airlines sign-up to trial the IATA Travel Pass. That will help us be ready for the restart. Manual processes will not be able to cope with the volume of travelers when the recovery begins. But we cannot just have any digital solution. The system must:
- Be secure,
- Work with existing systems,
- Align with global standards, and
- Respect data privacy.
These fundamentals are at the core of the IATA Travel Pass. It is setting a very high bar for managing health credentials, protecting against fraud and enabling a convenient travel process.
While there is choice in the market for solutions, there should be no compromise on the fundamentals, or we risk failing systems, disappointed governments and travelers, and a delayed restart.
Lastly, we need global standards to record vaccinations and test results. Speed is critical. Fraudulent COVID-19 test results are already proving to be an issue. And as vaccine programs ramp up governments are using paper processes and differing digital standards to record who has been vaccinated. These are not the conditions needed to support a successful restart at scale when governments open borders.
The WHO, ICAO, and OECD are working on standards, but each day without them means the challenge gets bigger. This challenge includes finding a way to record those who have been vaccinated before the standards are set.
The bottom line is we need planning and cooperation between industry and governments, supported by global standards. The COVID-19 crisis has caused so much hardship. When governments are able to reopen their borders, we must be ready. That means having the processes, tools, and standards to support a quick ramping-up of activity.
I look forward to your questions.
> See press release
> Access the IATA Travel Pass presentation (pdf)
> View the COVID-19 Airline industry cash burn now expected to continue through 2021 presentation (pdf)