British Airways CEO Sean Doyle is confident that the strong demand for air travel will continue despite signs in the US and other markets that the post-Covid surge is beginning to soften.

Speaking at the Airlines 2023 conference in London, Doyle said demand for flights was “very resilient”.

“What we learned coming out of the pandemic is for whatever purpose, people want to travel,” he told the industry gathering.

“Business travel has lagged a little bit and we were expecting that, but visiting friends and relatives and leisure travel has really been the boom.

“Will that continue? I think signs are that travel is very resilient. We always have cycles, but our sense is that we live in a global economy people travel the world, and there’s many reasons why they want to get on planes.”

His comments come amid uncertainty about the aviation industry’s ability to continue to attract the high levels of flight bookings that have seen the industry bounce back strongly from Covid.

During the tail end of the summer and throughout the autumn, airlines in the US began to warn of softening demand for air travel, particularly outside of the key holiday periods.

Sean Doyle at Airlines 2023

Doyle also warned about challenges affecting the supply chain which risked hampering the industry’s ability to grow.

“We’ve had disruption to supply chains, whether it’s the war in Ukraine, the slower rebuild of China, and I think making sure that we get all of these just-in-time parts into the ecosystem is something that the industry is coming to terms with, but it hasn’t been back to the levels that we would have liked over the last 12 months,” he said.

Resolving the staffing challenges that affected aviation last summer has been more successful, he added.

“The economic headwinds are always something we battle with, whether it’s oil price, whether it’s exchange rates, whether it’s geopolitical issues,” he said.

“So that’s part and parcel of the job. It actually makes no day like any other, that makes it interesting. I think the challenges that we’ve had and the industry’s had has been obviously rebuilding critical resources. We’ve made great progress this summer compared to last summer.

“We’ve bought 11,000 people into the industry. What we’re learning is the industry is still very, very attractive for people to work in.

“There are certain pockets that we look at. In the long term, we need to have better kind of strategies out there to make sure we have long term supply and right resources, but the rebuild from resourcing perspective has really got traction this year. I think supply chains have been a bit more difficult.”
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