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Leaders defend industry as airlines cancel flights worldwide

Air travel is resuming, but not without some major hiccups.

Particularly in North America and Europe, travelers described chaos at airports, with dozens of canceled or delayed flights, lost luggage and wait times to board planes exceeding four hours. This is partly the result of labor shortages due to the pandemic, as layoffs have put pressure on airports and airlines in the face of a surge of summer passengers eager to travel.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, speaking to CNBC’s Dan Murphy about the industry’s recovery, said after nearly two years of drastically reduced activity, it will take some time for the system to recover. operational again.

“The whole industry, all over the world, is going through this, and we’re seeing some of it in Australia,” Joyce said at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 78th Annual General Meeting in Doha, Qatar. , sunday.

It’s “not as bad as what you see in Europe or the North American market,” the CEO said. “We saw long queues at airports over Easter; nothing like you’ve seen in London, Manchester and Dublin and elsewhere in Europe.”

“And I think it takes time. The system is rusty, everything was shut down for two years,” he added. “It’s going to take some time to get this system working again. It’s a huge, complicated business, there are a lot of moving parts involved.”

IATA Director General Willie Walsh, in a separate interview from Doha, said airport chaos and delays are “isolated” and not all airports are experiencing problems.

Nonetheless, he added that the airline industry is not yet “out of the woods” when it comes to recovery.

“Yes, we want to do better, and yes, we will do better. But I urge consumers considering flying to consider the fact that it’s not happening everywhere,” Walsh said. “And in the overwhelming majority of cases, flights are running on schedule, seamlessly, without any problems at the airport, and I think you can expect to enjoy the experience of flying again.”

The comments came as thousands more flights were canceled in the United States over the weekend and the previous Friday, which was the busiest day for air travel in the country so far this year, according to the Transport Security Administration. As of Friday afternoon, airlines had canceled more than 1,000 flights, after already canceling 1,700 on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

On Saturday, some 6,300 flights to, from and within the United States were delayed and more than 800 were canceled, NBC News reported, citing flight tracking site FlightAware.

“The demand is massive”

Yet for Qantas, Australia’s flagship carrier, the domestic return seems to be firing on all cylinders.

“It’s really good – in Australia, the domestic market, we’re seeing massive demand growth, with leisure demand over 120%, the corporate market and SME markets are back to 90% of levels. before Covid, and so we have nearly full capacity restored in the domestic market,” Joyce said.

The resumption of international flights is “a bit slower”, he said, at around 50% of pre-Covid levels. But he expects that by Christmas international trade will be at 85% of pre-Covid levels and that by “March next year we will be at 100%”.

“But the demand is massive,” he added. “We have more international demand than, in some cases, we saw before Covid, with less capacity, allowing us to recoup fuel costs, increase yields.”

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