Welcome To The New Era Of Air Travel

The rate with which the world’s airlines begin their likely lengthy journeys to resuming full operation will initially be somewhat out of their hands, a Wednesday webinar hosted by Baxter Media was told.

Consultant Gavin Eccles, whose resume includes working for British Airways and SATA, and who serves as an aviation consultant for Visit Portugal, said carriers’ decisions are for the next little while to a large degree dependent on when the world’s governments lift travel-crippling restrictions aimed at safeguarding their citizens against coronavirus.

“You (airlines) can only go where you can go,” he told the webinar, called Airborne. Are We There Yet.

Eccles said many carriers have significant numbers of bookings — often made some time ago — but many of the booked flights may be cancelled shortly before their departure dates.

Aviation consultant Robert Rennert, who among other things worked for Porter Airlines, said that travellers may be particularly nervous about being in a “high-density” plane, with many travellers likely feeling leery about being close to fellow passengers for the foreseeable future.

Rennert said enhanced cleaning measures taken by carriers can increase the amount of time a plane is on the ground between flights, which cuts into revenue, which in turn may “impact” fares.

Webinar participants were told that financially strapped airlines are wanting to use newer, more fuel-efficient planes, rather than older “gas-guzzlers.”

Meanwhile, Rennert and Eccles believe airlines are going to be more appreciative of travel agents, given all the inspiring stories of agents putting in long hours to bring home clients who were stranded when coronavirus disrupted their travel.

Eccles said agents can help airlines build “reassurance” about air travel, while Rennert said agents received “wonderful accolades” during “terribly, terribly stressful” times. “It’s important for the agency community on how they can build their brand … in this new era of travel.” Rennert suggested that unease people may have about being close to someone in Economy class can enable agents to sell more upgrades.

Eccles added that there’s speculation that there might be price wars between carriers desperate for passengers but there’s no sign of that yet.
The webinar was moderated by Barbara Dirnberger of Airline Metrics.