One of the leading figures in UK aviation has predicted “the ‘old normal’ is not going to return” for airlines and airports.
Tim Jeans, director of Cornwall Airport Newquay, told the travel podcast of The Independent: “The ‘new normal’ is going to be different. I think aviation for at least five years hence is going to be materially smaller that it was.
“Even when we’re out of this, the impact and the uncertainty that the pandemic has generated in our population and those overseas will just make people less carefree about the way they look at travel.
“Nonetheless, we are a curious race and I think that that will always drive people’s appetite for travel. So there are good reasons to be optimistic.”
He predicted “a smaller industry overall” with “much less business travel”.
“We’ve all now got used to Zoom and Teams,” he said. “Those methods of communicating will change the game again.”
He also said the coronavirus pandemic “is on everybody’s mind now” – with consequences for long-haul travel, which he said will “be different and smaller”.
“We will have a challenging few years ahead of us,” he said. Discretionary trips such as stag parties to cities including Amsterdam and Krakow “might go to Newcastle or Newquay instead”.
The travelling public, predicted Mr Jeans, will return to holidays run by tour operators. “They want the certainty that if things do go wrong they’re protected in the way that they’re not going to be if they do it themselves,” he said.
Travellers will be more concerned about climate change, and the aviation industry must move towards sustainability.
“If we do anything in the next five years, we do just that: we make our airports – as we are trying to do in Newquay by 2030 – carbon neutral.
“We try to make aeroplanes greener, cleaner, less noisy, less polluting. If we make progress towards that in the next five years then there may be a few plusses in the ledger against pandemics, versus the negativity that we’ve seen to date.”
The UK government is under pressure from the travel industry to ease the current onerous testing requirements for arrivals from every country except Ireland.
For the past month travellers to the UK, regardless of vaccination status, must pay for a pre-departure test and a post-arrival PCR – and self-isolate until a negative result is received.
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