With increasing reports that the aviation industry is in trouble, holidaymakers are rightly concerned about the future of affordable travel. Just yesterday, Virgin Atlantic announced the decision to halt all operations from London Gatwick Airport and cut its workforce by ten percent – equalling more than 3,000 employees. Express.co.uk has provided expert knowledge on the future of cheap flights and holidays.
What will happen to cheap flights and holidays after coronavirus?
Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at global branding consultancy Landor Peter Knapp says it could be a while to get the industry to bounce back.
Mr Knapp told Express.co.uk: “The pandemic is likely to change the reasons people are travelling as much as it will change the frequency and cost people travel at.
“For airlines to bounce back, they are going to need to stimulate demand and tap into these new drivers.
“Customers will be rethinking business and holiday travel. Our new-found screen-based connections via the likes of Zoom have allowed us to travel digitally. What will be our new motivations for travel post COVID-19?
“The industry will need to think of new ways to reframe the value of the travel experience. Until then, recovery could take a very long time.
“Carriers that relied on business travellers may face an additional challenge as many customers begin to question the value of flying when video conferencing has demonstrated a lot of business can be done remotely.”
On whether consumers can expect to see cheap flights and holidays in the near future, Mr Knapp said the situation could go either way.
He said: “On the one hand, customers may be desperate to get back to flying, driving up demand and cost.
“On the other, low prices could be used to lure frightened flyers back to the skies, but it will be a very difficult financial equation to balance: Capacity vs safety.”
Mr Knapp said the future cost of flying will be dictated by whatever the “new normal” resembles after the lockdown.
As a key enabler of the budget travel industry is a high load factor and fast turnaround, it may become increasingly difficult to implement social distancing measures in this way.
Mr Knapp said: “If customers want to social distance and sanitising planes at the end of each leg becomes standard, that model may struggle to survive.”
He saids that there will need to be an evolution from the current low-budget format, both in terms of model and operation.
“This could well sparks an innovation explosion”, Mr Knapp continued.
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“For example, if the middle seat goes unused on flights, smart carriers will be thinking about what they could do with this empty space.
“How carriers design and dictate operational protocols for managing passengers safely through the travel process will be essential in creating trust and confidence in the flying process again.
“This will be the critical factor for recovery. Undoubtedly flying will change.
“The airlines that change to meet new needs will be the first ones that bounce back after this.”
As the chief budget flight operator and Europe’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, Ryanair has struggled to stay afloat throughout the pandemic.
The airline is planning to cut jobs and operate less than 1 percent of flights throughout June after warning that passenger demand and pricing will take at least two years to recover.
Ryanair said in a statement that its restructuring programme will kick off in June and could result in up to 3,000 job losses among pilots and cabin crews – around 15 percent of its overall workforce.
Pay cuts of up to 20 percent and the closure of a number of aircraft bases around Europe are also on the cards, says the airline. CEO Michael O’Leary will take a 50 percent pay cut for the rest of the financial year to March 2021.
In a statement to their shareholders, Ryanair said: “As a direct result of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, the grounding of all flights from mid-March until at least July, and the distorted State Aid landscape in Europe, Ryanair now expects the recovery of passenger demand and pricing (to 2019 levels) will take at least 2 years, until summer 2022 at the earliest.
“The Ryanair Airlines will shortly notify their trade unions about its restructuring and job loss program, which will commence from July 2020.”
In terms of the company’s financial future, the statement read: “Ryanair entered this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis with almost £4billion in cash, and we continue to actively manage these cash resources to ensure we can survive this COVID-19 pandemic.
“More importantly the return to lower fare flight schedules as soon as possible, when our customers can look forward to more low air fares as we are forced to compete with flag carrier airlines who have received state aid.”
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