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FlightPlan: Aviation recovery impacted by lack of global synchronisation

Posted 27 July 2021 · Add Comment

FlightPlan: C-Suite Week, hosted by Inmarsat and APEX, aired a series of ‘no holds barred’ discussions with the CEOs of Qatar Airways, AirAsia, United Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and IATA last week.

 

kbar Al Baker, Group CEO, Qatar Airways. Image:  Qatar Airways

Interviews were held with key industry players, including Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO, Qatar Airways and Willie Walsh, director general, IATA.

 

Several topics were debated during the daily ‘power hour’ broadcasts, including leadership lessons from the industry’s biggest ever crisis, how airline recovery has been stilted by a lack of global synchronisation, and the importance of addressing sustainability challenges. The interviews also explored the ability of digitalisation to accelerate profitable growth for airlines and meet evolving passenger needs.

 

Summarising the event, Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “FlightPlan was launched by Inmarsat and APEX during the very onset of the global pandemic, bringing the global aviation industry together for much needed debates, discussions and direction at a time of great uncertainty.

 

“The response has been phenomenal, with a combined audience of approximately 17,000 for the first three editions, reinforcing its position as the industry’s biggest virtual broadcast. FlightPlan: C-Suite Week delivered insight into the difficult decisions faced by leaders over the past 18 months. It also uncovered many impressive future-facing initiatives underway - from sustainability to passenger experience - that will not only secure a strong recovery for airlines, but also ensure a bright future for the industry at large.”

 

Never waste a crisis

FlightPlan’s C-Suite line-up shared valuable leadership lessons from steering their aviation businesses through the COVID-19 travel crisis over the past 18 months. Al Baker shared his biggest learning for leaders: “there should always be a plan B and even sometimes a plan C of how to conduct your business in dire circumstances like the pandemic.”

 

Unilateralism has stilted recovery

Across the board, the interviewees agreed that industry recovery has been stilted by unilateralism and a lack of global synchronisation. For Fernandes, co-ordination between different governments “has been a failure… because every country has their own vaccine rules and entry requirements”. Lamenting the lack of standardised policies, he called for closer co-ordination between airlines and airports, noting: “we’re symbiotic; we need each other”.

 

Walsh echoed the challenges of a siloed international approach: “You would have expected the EU to have corralled everybody together and say, look, ‘we've got to demonstrate to everybody now that we are in this together’. That's probably been the most disappointing thing for me. If we've struggled to see a political and a coordinated political response from the EU, I think we've no hope of expecting to see a coordinated political response globally.”

 

Sustainability in aviation

With climate change rapidly rising up the consumer, corporate and policy agenda, sustainability was highlighted as an urgent priority for the airline industry to ensure its right to operate in the future.

 

Walsh backed further political focus on environmental performance, noting: “The equipment that we have on aircraft today is so advanced and yet we're still operating the way we were back in the 1960s. It's a scandal on environmental grounds and is making our operations so much more inefficient than they could be.” He speculated, “Why isn't it being done? Because there's a lack of political will to address the issue.”

 

Qatar Airways is also underway with its sustainability drive, according to Al Baker, who said: “We are prepared to look after our environment, and this is why we are continuously investing in aeroplanes that are more fuel-efficient.”

 

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