United Airlines CEO Doesn’t Expect Travel to Fully Recover Until 2023

By Kurt Stolz on 12 July 2021
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Travel is not likely to return in full to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in an interview on Sunday.

Speaking on the CBS news program “Face the Nation,” Kirby said that, given the pent-up demand for people to “connect with the world,” leisure travel has exceeded 100% of pre-pandemic levels, but the demand on the business side is still down by 60% as many borders remain closed amidst the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re not back to 100%, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction,” he said.   “We see a huge desire for people to get back out, reunite with friends and family, connect with the world.”

Kirby sees business demand starting to pick up in September once schools reopen.  Moreover, he sees 2022 as a record year for European travel, although he doesn’t foresee the same for Asia.

“Probably next summer will be the biggest year in history for Europe,” Kirby said. “Asia is probably another 18 to 24 months away. It’s going to take a little longer to get Asia,” he noted.

Meanwhile, United is addressing markets it thinks customers want to fly to now.

The Chicago-based airline last week announced almost 150 new flights to what it termed “warm weather destinations” such as the Southwest, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. That followed last month’s announcement of the airline’s largest order ever for new aircraft, announcing it will buy 200 Boeing 737 Max jets and 70 larger Airbus A321neos. The deal is valued at more than $30 billion at list prices before customary discounts.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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