The golden age of UK air travel is over, with airline revenue plummeting, passenger disenchantment rising, and fares poised to soar, according to Monarch Airlines managing director Tim Jeans.
Jeans, who sees no relief from airport congestion to ease increasing public distaste for flying, told a Chartered Institute of Marketing Travel Industry Group seminar in London that the industry is undergoing a change. “It is possible – even probable – we will look back on the past five years as a golden age of travel, an time of extraordinarily cheap air fares,” he said.
“Tax on air travel will only go up. Emissions trading will only send fares higher. We may well have seen the peak of our industry.
“We provide too much capacity at too low a cost to be sustainable. Yields are falling, with no signs of recovery. We see profit being sucked away.”
His remarks echoed those of British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh in the summer, who warned of “a paradigm shift” in the industry. These are especially significant as Jeans runs an airline that combines scheduled and charter operations in a leisure sector that has appeared immune to the downturn.
He warned: “A raft of issues are going to dampen demand. We face Air Passenger Duty, emissions trading, and rising taxes – not just in the UK. The cost of oil will return to more than $100 a barrel, and for most airlines, $110 a barrel is the breaking point.
“The flying experience has got worse and is unacceptable for most people. The industry has not helped with the additional charges it has poured in. Where people have a choice of ways to travel, flying is last on their list.”
The boom at regional airports is over, he warned. “Marginal routes will go. Carriers will cut routes from regional airports and it is debatable how many will reappear. There is likely to be little growth in airport capacity – not just in the UK, but in destinations.”
The Co-operative Travel Group managing director Mike Greenacre agreed that times have changed, but said: “Too many companies in our industry continue to bury their heads in the sand regarding climate change. There is going to be much more focus on climate. It is going to be at the centre of all our decisions.”
Airport operator director BAA Mike Forster reaffirmed the case for a third runway at Heathrow, but said: “We will probably see short-haul flying decline significantly.”
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