Compete and crash, airlines warned as turbulence expected to last years

The aviation industry is among the biggest victims of the Covid-19 pandemic which paralysed global air travel.

PETALING JAYA: A transport expert has proposed that local airline companies work together, instead of competing, in the wake of predictions that the aviation business will take at least three years to regain passenger traffic before the Covid-19 crisis.

Goh Bok Yen, who has been a transport consultant for 30 years, said Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo Air should “coordinate” to put their resources to the best use.

This includes code sharing agreements. A codeshare flight is the joint operation of an aircraft by two or more carriers.

“If they compete now, they will kill each other, as the market has shrunk.They can’t survive by competing,” he told FMT.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently said air passenger traffic won’t rebound to pre-Covid-19 crisis levels until at least 2023.

IATA director-general Alexandre de Juniac said air travel had dropped more than 90% in the US and Europe since the outbreak and cautioned that recovery would be even slower if lockdowns and travel restrictions were extended.

Goh agreed that the outlook for the local aviation industry was gloomy, as it was dependent on what happened around the world.

He said airline companies should focus more on short-term plans.

“Otherwise it would not be in sync with the current situation. The Covid-19 has become too big and whatever plans they drew up is somewhat negligible.”

With short-term plans, airlines could “keep their noses above the water”.

He said new rules such as social distancing could see an airplane carrying half its capacity.

“If these airlines are not careful, they could go bankrupt.”

The Board of Airline Representatives Malaysia (BAR-Malaysia) also concurred with IATA’s assessment, adding that Malaysians would remain cautious about travelling at least for the next six to 12 months.

“But domestic travel is expected to show earlier positive signs of a rebound than international travel,” its chairman Suresh Singam told FMT.

Suresh supported IATA’s call that governments adopt a “layered approach” and open borders without quarantining arrivals beginning with countries with the lowest infection rates.

However, measures must still be in place to address the risk of infection from travellers, such as temperature screening, health declaration and contact tracing, he said.

“Such measures, among others, are needed to boost the confidence to travel.”

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