Global airlines attacked governments on Monday for what the industry’s leading ambassador called their “shamball” response to the COVID-19 crisis, and called on nations to tear up the book on widespread border closures for any future pandemics.
“The cost of bad government has been significant. It has devastated economies, disrupted supply chains and destroyed jobs,” said Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, at an industry summit.
The airlines themselves are under fire from governments and consumer groups for disruption, as demand for travel resumes faster than expected, but airlines see a common thread in uncoordinated government responses to the crisis.
“There was a virus, but each government came up with its own methodology,” Walsh said at the industry’s annual meeting. “How can anyone trust such a tumultuous, uncoordinated and uncontrollable response from governments?”
Speaking to more than 100 airline chiefs in Qatar, Walsh cited research showing that border closures have barely stopped the spread of the pandemic, while effectively stopping international travel and crippling economies.
“Closing borders is not the right response to a pandemic,” Walsh said.
Governments around the world have provided more than $ 200 billion in support to airlines to reduce bankruptcies during the pandemic, according to UK-based aviation consulting firm Ishka.
Airlines are expected to cut losses in 2022 and could win next year when air travel resumes, IATA said.
Walsh said confusing government policies have also exacerbated the disruption observed, especially in Europe, when flights resumed.
Britain has criticized airlines for delays and called on the industry to refrain from over-booking flights that it cannot operate.
Recent delays have been widely blamed for labor shortages as more and more people leave low-paid jobs at the airport due to flexible working practices that prospered during the pandemic.
The head of the host airline Qatar Airways questioned the change in labor trends.
“People have a bad habit of working from home,” CEO Akbar Al Baker told a news conference.
“They don’t think they need to go into an industry that really needs practical people,” he said, adding that a shortage of airport staff could limit airline growth after the crisis.
Airlines and airports often meet at large gatherings in the industry, with government interests and jobs at stake.
Walsh, who has built a reputation as a fraud in clashes with unions and governments as a former British Airways chief, has rallied CEOs under pressure by attacking the practice of raising airport charges to recoup revenue lost during the crisis.
“Try this in a competitive business. “Dear customers, we charge you double for your coffee today because you could not buy one yesterday. Who would accept that? He said.
Airports said they had been unfairly criticized by airlines and urged them to focus on solving their own problems.
(Report by Tim Heffer, Alexander Cornwell and Jamie Fried; edited by Ian Harvey)
(This story was not edited by Business Standard staff and is automatically generated by a syndicated channel.)