Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says that COVID-19 is going to reshape travel with business getting used to using online conference calls.
Speaking with AirlineRatings.com yesterday Al Baker said that the 2008 GFC spelt the demise of first-class travel and he feels that business travel will be severely impacted going forward.
“Yields will fall as premium traffic declines,” he warned.
However, the upside for business is that social distancing is guaranteed particularly with the airline’s Qsuite, which it will continue to deploy.
And with the decline in business travel, the global A380 superjumbo fleet will also be under pressure.
“Qatar Airways is parking its 10 A380s and they will not return for at least a year, and maybe never.”
And he sees the decline of many airlines.
“There will be consolidation and bankruptcies and a huge reduction in capacity,” said Al Baker.
Qatar Airways like most airlines will also seek aid from its government owners.
Al Baker said that the airline was burning through cash and only had enough to sustain operations for a “very short period of time”.
“We will surely go to our government eventually for equity,” said Al Baker.
On the future, he said that “some people say that the industry will not recover to 2019 levels till at least 2023.”
“But I think it will be sooner.”
Al Baker is upbeat on the work that is going on in Israel and the UK for cures and vaccines.
“I think Israel will be first.”
“The world’s best scientific minds are working on COVID19 and I am confident it will be sooner than later.”
However, getting passengers comfortable with flying is a challenge.
“Airlines will have to mount an aggressive campaign to promote the cleanliness of the airport and aircraft.”
Al Baker says Qatar Airways is leading the world in aircraft and airport hygiene.
“We have complete social distancing on our aircraft and all our flight crew have PPE”
Al Baker said that the airline has changed its service delivery to virtually eliminate contact.
“Our airline has implemented industry-leading hygiene practices and commercial policies enabling our passengers to book and travel with confidence.”
The airline has maintained flights to at least 30 destinations – including Perth – during the crisis helping to take over 1 million people home.
Qatar Airways will soon begin a phased increase to 80 destinations by the end of June in line with passenger demand and the expected relaxation of entry restrictions around the world.