Cargo volumes were up by 9% in February. So clearly demand for air travel by air cargo or freight is quite strong. And as you know, in a normal year, a lot of the cargo that airlines carry is carried in the belly hold of the passenger aircraft. And in some cases, like North Atlantic or Trans-Atlantic, that’s as much as 55% of the cargo that’s carried. And with the significant constraints on the passenger networks, we’re seeing supply on the cargo side being constrained as well. So we have good demand, good volumes, but limited capacity. And that capacity will remain limited so long as airlines can’t operate their passenger aircraft to carry passenger traffic.
Over on the passenger side this is the most challenging crisis the industry has ever faced. I speak from personal experience having spent over 40 years in the industry. But if you look at the figures that Brian talked about, international passenger traffic is down almost 89%. And, it’s showing no signs of recovery in the current environment.
What we do see, is that when constraints are relaxed or removed, there is very strong pent-up demand. That is what happened in Europe last summer and what we saw in Australia in February. So we are optimistic that as we go through the health crisis associated with the pandemic and these restrictions are relaxed or removed, we will see passenger traffic recover and recover strongly.
And while we fully acknowledge and understand the political need for governments to impose these restrictions, we believe it is very important that governments start thinking and planning for the removal of restrictions as the health crisis is overcome. We want to work with governments so that they can better understand what will be required from airlines, because it’s not going to be easy for airlines just to ramp up activity. That will have to be done in a structured way because all airlines want to see that done in a coordinated and in a safe fashion.
So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. We stand ready to work with governments and other agencies to ensure that the recovery can be managed well, and that people can get back to enjoying the freedoms that we’ve taken for granted. And I think that’s a critical issue for all of us.
And it’s also important for us to recognize that while the future is uncertain in the near term, we want to get back to a situation whereby the restrictions that we see in place today are removed when they are no longer needed. That means measures, such as testing, or the potential for showing vaccine certification. They should not become a permanent part of the industry. These are measures that may be necessary as temporary arrangements while we go through this crisis, but once we’re through it, we want to see these restrictions permanently removed so that people can get back to travelling as they experienced back in 2019.
So I know you’ve enjoyed the presentations my predecessor Alexandre has given over the last few months. From all the feedback I’ve received, the media welcome these presentations and clearly value them. Given the attendance on today’s call I think that continues to be the case. Looking at the list of attendees, I know most of you. I think I probably met nearly all of you at some stage in my former roles at Aer Lingus, British Airways or IAG. So I’m happy to continue to do this and Tony will arrange future briefings. We may not do it on a weekly or fortnightly basis, but we will certainly do it when we have something to say. And believe me, there are a lot of things we will want to say.
My priorities remain the same as Alexandre’s.
- We are clearly focused on working with governments to enable the airlines to get moving again. We want to facilitate our member airlines being able to operate.
- It’s important that the IATA Travel Pass is introduced and accepted because we need to be able to offer the customer a digitized option to travel. We can’t have a situation where passengers are required to go to a check-in counter at an airport when they want to travel. Quite honestly, the airports that we’re operating in today aren’t designed to cope with high volumes of passengers turning up at check-in desks. The concept of self-service check-in using online or apps has become a permanent feature of the business. And we need to get back to facilitating that. And that’s where our initiative the IATA Travel Pass is so important.
- We want to see the industry getting back up to full speed in a safe and coordinated way.
- We want to see the rest of the value chain recognize the need to work with us. We will not accept monopolistic type behaviors from key elements of the value chain who may seek to recover the losses that they’ve incurred through 2020 from the industry as we do get going again.
- And as I said, while testing and the potential for maybe vaccination certificates could be a feature in the short term, we want to see those requirements removed as soon as the health crisis and pandemic crisis has been managed and we get through the immediate challenge that we face.