Airline bookings will “go off like a fire hydrant” due to pent up demand brought about by COVID-19 restrictions, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airway’s chief executive Tony Douglas said in a CNN interview.
Bookings are currently expected to go back to pre-pandemic levels in mid 2023, Douglas told CNN in the interview aired on Monday, the one-year anniversary of the United Arab Emirates suspending all flights.
The airline, like others in the industry, has suffered heavy losses throughout the pandemic – laying off 33 percent of its workforce and more than doubling 2019’s operating losses.
Despite the battering the company has taken, Douglas remains optimistic.
“[Bookings are] going to go off like a fire hydrant. Hold that thought in your mind. There is so much pent up demand,” he told CNN.
“Every time a country comes on a green list, even if it’s only for a relatively limited period of time, our booking curve goes through the roof.”
Routes between the UAE and Israel are expected to become “very popular indeed,” said Douglas.
Vaccine passports in order to reduce the risk of travelers spreading COVID-19, as well as PCR tests, look certain to be a part of the future of air travel, he said.
Etihad grounded most of its fleet between March and June 2020, and lost $1.7 billion in 2020, with operating revenue falling 52 percent to $2.7 billion and passenger traffic plunging by 76 percent to 4.2 million.
Douglas has previously thanked the Abu Dhabi government, a shareholder in the company, for the support it has given to Etihad, without specifying exactly what it had provided.