Air passengers face higher fares and fewer flights to choose from as a result of the Covid crisis, with smaller airports likely to be hardest hit.

That is the view of Airlines for Europe (A4E) managing director Thomas Reynaert, who said: “Flying is not going to get cheaper with all the additional regulations.

“Flying is not going to be easier, particularly for business travellers. It won’t get cheaper with the regulations and complexity.”

He warned the crisis “will have an impact on connectivity as well as pricing”.

“Will you still be able to fly from smaller cities? Will smaller airports still be around? What will be their capacity?”

Reynaert told a Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) European Town Hall virtual meeting: “The outlook is grim.”

He said: “This crisis will trigger faster consolidation than we expected. Airlines are in a really tight cash situation. So long as travel restrictions don’t improve quickly and we don’t get a vaccine, consolidation will happen.

“Business models for airlines might change as well. We might see different models. We may see impacts on infrastructure.

“Which airports will survive? Are the larger airports, dominant in the past, going to grow more dominant or be weaker?

“The whole supply chain will be damaged. All the suppliers to airlines and airports will be impacted.”

Reynaert acknowledged: “We will probably not get back to 2019 levels until 2024.”

But he warned: “That [forecast] does not take into account additional pandemics or additional crises. It just takes account that by the third quarter of next year we will have a vaccine generally available.

“Even with that, it will take years for airlines to come out of this.”

His warning echoed that of Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of global airports association ACI World, who said last week: “There is a great possibility of airports to go bankrupt.”

“Before the crisis, 65% of airports in the world were working at a deficit. Now all airports around the world are in deficit. We could see airports go into bankruptcy in a short period of time.”

De Oliveira warned: “Smaller airports will suffer more because when travel restarts it is at big airports.”