Depression in long-haul air travel to continue until ‘biggest’ markets open up: Al-Baker
June 22 2021 05:21 PM
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker

Depression in long-haul air travel will continue until the “biggest” markets in the world– Brazil, China and India open up, said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker.

“Biggest countries like the US, China and India can open up their domestic markets, but when you have a hub and spoke operation and you want your people to travel long-haul, it has to be a consistent protocol of how you will treat the vaccinated people and how you will open up the countries and the markets,” al-Baker said at a panel conversation with Guy Johnson, anchor, Bloomberg Television at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday.

Asked about the challenges being faced by airlines in view of the pandemic and the global response, he said, “I am extremely frustrated because what is happening every day is that governments are changing the protocols of who they will let enter, who they will put in quarantine, and who they will restrict from entering their countries.

“The different set of requirements for vaccination the Covid tests are really confusing passengers and the airlines alike. And I hope the governments realise they are damaging their own economies and the aviation industry as a whole.”

Al-Baker noted, “We all the airlines and the CEOs are in the same boat. We are all struggling with authorities who keep on not making their minds on exactly what they want.

“Like my colleagues in the industry, I do understand about vaccinating people and allowing people who are vaccinated to travel freely, but the problem is until you get the masses vaccinated you will keep getting mutations…and the mutations will then trigger waves…like the third wave or fourth wave or fifth wave. And this is continuously happening, letting governments again tighten their belts.”

“An example is the UK,” he said and noted, “Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned that he was going to open up on May 17. This could again extend, once they see the Delta variant increasing in the UK and so are in other countries.”

As an introduction to the panel session, which also comprised David Calhoun, CEO, The Boeing Company, Luis Gallego, CEO, International Airlines Group and Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO, RwandAir, Bloomberg noted, “From flying high to parked on the tarmac, Covid-19 grounded thousands of aircraft. Once-bustling airports turned into virtual mausoleums. Millions of workers in the aviation sector worldwide lost their jobs.

“We took flying for granted. The pandemic grounded airlines, locked us in our homes, and brought business and holiday travel to a halt. Will we ever get back to the way it used to be?”

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