Air travel may not reach pre-pandemic levels for three-four years: Qatar Airways CEO

Akbar Al Baker says there will be more pain for aviation, with the possibility of further layoffs, major airlines having to approach their governments for aid, and more airlines folding

  
Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, talks to media during a roundtable conference in New Delhi, India, September 4, 2018.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, talks to media during a roundtable conference in New Delhi, India, September 4, 2018.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Air travel may not reach pre-pandemic levels for another three to four years and the failure of governments to have a unified approach to health requirements is delaying the revival of the industry, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said.

In an interview with BBC StoryWorks, Al Baker said global governments’ approach to travel during the pandemic had been ‘haphazard’ and confusing to both customers and airlines.

“Unfortunately governments all across the world have a haphazard way of putting systems in place which is confusing passengers, confusing airlines, and is delaying the travel industry to start picking up.”

Video: When will air travel return to pre-pandemic levels?

As to when air travel may return to pre-pandemic levels, he said: “I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you exact timing. I don’t think the travel will be back to the pre-pandemic period for the next three to four years.

“And in the process, more airlines will fold, there will be more pain in the industry, there will be even [the] possibility of more layoffs, there will be [the] possibility of major airlines again going back to their governments for state aid. Just hope that we at Qatar Airways will continue to serve our valued customers.”

Al Baker said his airline would be one of the first to test the IATA Travel Pass, an air transport industry initiative, which will allow passengers to create a digital, passport-linked record proving that they are COVID-19 negative.

Addressing his airline’s role in the fight against climate change, he said stakeholders such as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers and fuel producers must chip in to solve the problem.

“Unfortunately the OEMs are very interested in making maximum profits, but not looking at the global warming problem. They want to blame to airlines, but they are the major part of this problem, because they sell us the aeroplanes in which we transport people, develop trade, promote tourism and bring families together.”

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Daniel Luiz)

(imogen.lillywhite@refinitiv.com)

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