“Air Traffic Control in Europe is a mess and is one of the biggest problems facing the airline industry,” the CAPA Airline Leader Summit held in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, was told by Willie Walsh, Chief Executive, International Airlines Group. “I am completely relaxed about post-Brexit UK/EU and UK/US agreements – the UK Government is very open to these.”
Asked whether a legacy airline should set up its own low-cost carrier or buy an existing one, he replied: “I wouldn’t recommend doing either, because legacy airline management will ‘kill it off’ – but if they must do one or the other I would say buy an existing airline, because the slots at airports are a constraint for any new airline.”
When Level was mentioned, he replied: “What many people fail to realise is that IAG is not an airline. It is a holding company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Level, and Vueling, each of which is run by separate teams, and my job is to ensure that each operates to its best and has the resources that it requires to do that.
“The issue of airline ownership and control is not an issue on our agenda. While the possibility of no flights on day one of Brexit currently exists, that is a bigger problem for the EU and airline ownership and control is a global problem – if someone takes me to court I will do the same to others! I don’t care who owns Virgin or Norwegian.”
During the two-day CAPA event, nine panels discussed a wide variety of topics, including data collection and use, making money from alliances and partnerships, making money from social media, using data to generate revenue, evolving distribution systems, the outlook as Brexit looms, new entrants such as Blockchain and Winding Tree, airlines and airports sharing data, and competing with low-cost carriers.
In addition, presentations were made by Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair, and Bobby Healy, CarTrawler, on ‘Special Vision: 2030 – What will the Travel Digital Ecosystem look like, and the Opportunities it Presents’. In outlining Ryanair’s vision of becoming ‘the Amazon of travel’, Kenny Jacobs emphasised that Ryanair aimed to maximise the percentage of bookings coming direct to the airline – and to eliminate ‘middlemen’, including GDSs and travel agents. However, in a subsequent panel discussion, Pedro Anderson, Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Winding Tree, countered with the more relevant statement: “It’s not about removing the middleman, but empowering competition and innovation.”