Aviation industry leaders warned on Wednesday that travelers should brace for even higher ticket prices as the industry battles the effects of the Covid pandemic, high oil prices and fears of conflict.
International Air Transport Association director general Willie Walsh also said airline recovery would be slowed if China maintains its travel restrictions against the coronavirus until 2023.
IATA chief and Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said travelers around the world can expect more price pain in the coming months due to higher fuel prices that have paralyzed losses over the past two years.
There was “little optimism” in the industry, Walsh told a news conference on the sidelines of an IATA meeting.
Walsh said that “the bottom line” is that if jet fuel prices continue to rise “the only choice for companies is to see that reflected in ticket prices”.
“The price is so volatile,” he added. The IATA chief and the head of Qatar Airways said ticket pressure would extend through 2023 and beyond.
IATA says airlines posted losses of $180 billion in 2020 and 2021 and expects another $9.7 billion in losses this year.
Baker, whose company made $1.5 billion in profits this year, criticized governments for “misleading” the public about the environmental damage of flying.
He said restrictions on airlines, such as relocations in many European countries to terminate flights less than 500 kilometers (310 miles), also increased costs.
Baker said if the cost of newer eco-friendly fuels were higher, that would add to ticket pressure, too.
Both said any reopening of China’s borders would play a key role in the recovery of the airline industry.
China had a “very important place” in international travel figures, Walsh said.
“If China remains closed in 2023, it will clearly impact the strength of the overall recovery,” he said.
He said Hong Kong’s aviation sector had been “devastated” by Covid restrictions, that the city was no longer a global aviation hub and that Cathay Pacific was a “shadow” of its former importance.
Baker said many Chinese football fans may not be able to attend the World Cup in Qatar this year due to restrictions caused by China’s zero-coronavirus policy.