The summer of 2022 is going to be remembered as one of travel chaos. Airlines failed to prepare for the post-pandemic resurgence in demand for travel but went ahead and sold tickets for flights they had no hope of operating. The result has been messy and all indications are that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
You would have thought, then, that airline executives would be spending every minute of their days trying to get the day-to-day operations of their business back on track.
Let’s hope the travelling public is in a forgiving mood. Because, instead of staying at home to focus on preventing any further operational meltdowns, airline executives including Qantas CEO Alan Joyce have been in Doha attending a jamboree of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The annual general meeting is an opportunity for executives to discuss the state of the business – certainly, a worthy thing to do as the sector emerges from the strict travel restrictions of the pandemic. But they also found time to let their hair down.
With delays and cancellations multiplying at an alarming rate, mountains of lost luggage building up and airfares spiking, the airline industry rewarded itself by flying superstar Jennifer Lopez to perform a private concert in Doha in an 80,000-seater stadium that was purpose-built to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup later this year.
Along with a set by the ‘Jenny from the Block’ singer, attendees at the lavish event also got to enjoy a spectacular firework display all while quaffing Champagne and munching on canapes.
The atmosphere couldn’t have been further removed from the chaos that has greeted hundreds of thousands of travellers so far this summer. No doubt, Jennifer Lopez and the executives she was entertaining got their luggage delivered on time.
It is a different world from the disaster that the aviation industry has inflicted upon travellers desperate for a post-pandemic holiday or the first opportunity to see loved ones in more than two years.
Even now, IATA estimates that globally, the airline industry expects to rack up losses of nearly $10 billion this year – although a “huge improvement” on the mammoth losses recorded by the sector in 2020 and 2021.
The only consolation perhaps is that the concert and fireworks were paid for by Qatar Airways – which, at least, hasn’t witnessed the kind of operational meltdowns that have marred the sector in particular in Europe and Australia.
Until recently, IATA had even hoped to hold its annual gathering in Shanghai but now the lobby group lashes out at governments for imposing pandemic-related travel restrictions.
IATA blames government-imposed restrictions for the mess currently engulfing the airline industry saying “constant policy changes by governments left most of the industry little time to prepare for the ramp-up”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
A true “Let Them Eat Cake” moment from the CEO’s. Or perhaps Nero might provide a better metaphor. Either way, the bigwigs are certainly showing what they truly think of their customers.
Spot on and well written. IATA reminds me more and more of FIFA – worshipping questionable leaders while not having its own agenda anymore. They should have been anticipating this mess and addressing it through advocacy and projects. I wonder how long the large carriers are tolerating this kind of leadership.