Aviation chiefs: Ticket price pain to linger
The Manila Times
DOHA: Aviation industry leaders warned on Wednesday that travelers must brace for even higher ticket prices as the sector continues to battle the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, high oil prices and conflict fears. Willie Walsh, International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general, said airlines’ recovery would be delayed if China maintains its coronavirus travel clampdown into 2023. He and Qatar Airways Chief Executive Office Akbar Al Baker said travelers around the world could expect more price pain in the coming months because of higher fuel prices adding to crippling losses from the past two years. There was “little optimism” in the industry, Walsh told a news conference on the sidelines of an IATA meeting. He said “the bottom line” was that if jet fuel prices kept going up, “the only choice for companies is to have that reflected in ticket prices.” “The price is so volatile,” he added. The IATA head and Qatar Airways chief said ticket pressures would extend into next year and beyond. Airlines posted losses of $180 billion in 2020 and 2021, and expects another $9.7 billion in losses this year. Baker, whose company this year recorded $1.5 billion in profit, slammed governments for “misleading” the public about the environmental damage of flying. He said restrictions on airlines, such as moves in many European countries to end flights of less than 500 kilometers (310 miles), was also adding to costs. Baker said if the cost of newer environment-friendly fuels was higher, then that would also be added to ticket pressures. Both said any reopening of China’s frontiers would play a key role in the aviation industry’s recovery. The East Asian country has a “very important place” in international travel figures, Walsh said. “If in 2023 China remains closed, then it clearly will have an impact on the strength of the overall recovery,” he added. He also said Hong Kong’s aviation sector had been “devastated” by Covid restrictions, the city was no longer a global aviation hub and that Cathay Pacific was a “shadow” of its former importance. Baker said many Chinese football fans might not be able to go this year’s World Cup in Qatar’s capital Doha because of restrictions caused by China’s zero-Covid policy.