Covid vaccine ‘game changer’ for air travel

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told CNBC on Tuesday that he was optimistic that the deployment of coronavirus vaccines would help drive demand for air travel around the world, based on his experience with his own family.

“Just before coming to this show, I called my mom in the UK. She just had her Covid vaccination today,” Hayes said on “Closing Bell.” “She’s already planning her trip to see me and her grandchildren in 2021. There are hundreds of millions of people like her around the world,” he added, calling the Covid-19 vaccine “a game changer for everyone. . “

The aviation sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, which sparked duel health and economic crises. While air traffic has improved from its spring low of the coronavirus era, traffic levels remain significantly below 2019 levels. For example, Monday 752,451 people passed TSA security checks, compared to 2,250,386 on the same weekday last year. , according to US government data.

However, the start of the Covid-19 vaccinations offers hope for a fuller economic recovery in 2021, especially in the beleaguered sectors such as travel and hospitality. The vaccine delivery from Pfizer and BioNTech began last week in the UK and this week in America.

Stocks are initially limited, but production capacity is expected to increase significantly next year, allowing for more people to be vaccinated. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who leads the Trump administration’s vaccination efforts, has said any American could have been vaccinated against Covid-19 by June.

Notably for JetBlue, Hayes said he was confident in the company’s decision to offer transatlantic flights to London in the coming months.

“We actually think that flights to London will start next summer really, perfectly timed,” said Hayes. “They may be less business travelers than usual, but the price we’re going to come with, I think, will make our new Mint, or premium, experience very accessible to many vacationers as well.”

“We see our leisure activities largely recovered by the end of next year. We think business travel will take a little longer, but that’s only about 15% to 20% of what we fly,” he said. “And we have been able to reuse much of that capacity in new leisure markets.”

While Hayes expects flight demand to improve in 2021, the New York City-based airline continues to take steps to keep costs under control. CNBC reported last week that reduced salaries for top executives will continue next year and pay increases will be paused for most employees.