Physical distance will end era of cheap air travel, industry warns | Business

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The era of cheap air travel will be over if airlines are forced to introduce physical distance measures on planes because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry warned.

Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said that if governments ordered airlines to adopt a physical distance on planes, at least a third of the seats would remain empty and the airlines should raise ticket prices by at least 50% or go bankrupt.

“Either you fly at the same price, selling the ticket at the same average price as before, and you lose huge sums of money, so it is impossible to fly for an airline, especially at low cost; or you increase the price of tickets by at least 50% and you can fly with minimum profit. So this means that if social distancing is imposed, the cheap trips are over. “

Iata said domestic air traffic has dropped 70% since early January due to the pandemic and warned that any global recovery should be slow. As domestic routes open earlier than long-haul routes, weak consumer confidence in fears of a recession will jeopardize a rapid recovery, said Brian Pearce, chief economist at Iata. Vietnam plans to restart all domestic flights from Thursday.

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Pearce pointed to China, where air travel initially rebounded when domestic flights resumed in mid-February, but said the recovery has since stalled with domestic flights at just over 40% of levels. before the pandemic. Domestic flights in Australia are 10% of pre-crisis levels, although new Covid-19 infections are close to zero.

Iata is hosting regional summits with governments this week and has called for confidence-building measures. As several European countries begin to ease national blockages, “an immediate rebound from the catastrophic drop in passenger demand seems unlikely,” said De Juniac.

The aviation group expects global passenger revenues for 2020 to be more than half of a year earlier, a loss of £ 314 billion (£ 255 billion).

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