The Gulf’s super-connectors, whose current business models rely on long-haul travel between Europe, Asia and North America, have a “difficult challenge” getting back to normality over the next five years, according to industry experts.
While short-haul traffic has begun to slowly recover in recent weeks, the kind of long-haul travel that Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways rely on will take much longer to rebound, according to the International Air Transport Association.
“[Gulf airlines] have certainly been very successful in the past serving long-haul markets, connecting passengers from Asia to Europe or North America via their super-connector hubs in the Gulf,” IATA’s chief economist, Brian Pearce, said on a media call with reports on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately those markets look like they’re going to be last to open. No doubt carriers in the region will adapt themselves. We’re certainly seeing travel in the next 18 months or so being much more shorter-haul until those longer-haul markets resume.”
Pearce added: “I think over the five year period we should be back to what we saw before and I don’t think there’s any reason why those super-connector business models shouldn’t work in the environment that we would expect to see in four or five years’ time but it might be a difficult challenge getting there.”
IATA on Tuesday said that global passenger traffic would probably not return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2024, a year later than previously projected.
The association believes that slow virus containment in the US and developing economies will further frustrate the recovery of long haul travel.
It said there is little sign of virus containment in many important emerging economies, which in combination with the US, represent around 40% of global air travel markets. Their continued closure, particularly to international travel, is “a significant drag on recovery”, IATA said in a statement.
“International markets remain largely closed. And in many parts of the world infections are still rising,” said IATA’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac. “All of this points to a longer recovery period and more pain for the industry and the global economy.”