The CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz, has warned that the airline has “no data” to support the hope that Covid-19 will have a temporary effect on the airline industry.
Giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s Transport Committee, Cruz said that in contrast to the optimism expressed in some quarters about the pandemic being a temporary challenge, he said that “This is the worst crisis the airline industry has ever encountered.”
“In fact, all the data, all the information and the previous crises… point to the same conclusion: things have changed; the airline industry is fundamentally different.”
Cruz said that “The fact remains that people are still afraid of travelling. And, of course, we are having weekly changes to the quarantine list. We don’t have a testing solution yet and our customers are still paying APD (Air Passenger Duty) even on domestic flights.”
He said that the Covid-19 pandemic “is not something that is just going to go away. The impact will be with us for many years. We cannot find any data to support optimism. In fact, the data shows the opposite.”
Cruz said that last week British Airways flew 187,000 passengers when, in the same week last year, it flew just under one million passengers, and is running between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of its normal flight schedule six months into the pandemic.”
Cruz said that the airline would continue to campaign for three things to help stimulate demand. The first was some sort of testing regime; the second that there should be more certainty about the quarantine list, perhaps with a regional filter. (“We can’t wait for the last State in the U.S to fall below the infection level before restarting flights to other States or cities”), and the last was a waiver of Air Passenger Duty.
Saying there was no sign of passengers returning in the short term, Cruz said that in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis, British Airways lost £309 million. In the second quarter of this year, it lost £711 million and is currently losing £20 million every day.
Pointing out that it took four years for global air traffic to recover from the financial crisis of 2009, and that the percentage of business travellers travelling in premium classes never recovered, Cruz said the well publicised job cuts at British Airways were necessary for the airline to survive.