Unanswered questions about Covid-19 vaccines mean the outlook for airlines remains uncertain despite the progress in vaccination, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has warned.

The Qatar Airways chief said “things need to be clarified” before the aviation industry can be confident a recovery is on the way.

Al Baker also warned “there will be fewer airlines operating”, but he forecast business travel would return once the virus is under control.

Speaking on a CAPA Centre for Aviation webinar, Al Baker noted: “There is no 100% guarantee the vaccines are going to work

“We don’t know how long will be the effect of the vaccines. Will it be six months, nine months, one year? Will it be permanent or will you have to be vaccinated every year?

“Will the vaccine producers have the capacity to cater for the world’s population if the vaccine is to be taken year-round?

“Even if you are vaccinated, science cannot prove that you will not be infectious to other people, especially when not everybody will get a vaccine.”

He warned: “You could still be a carrier although you are not affected because you have been vaccinated. All these things need to be clarified, and I don’t think it will happen in a day or two.”

Al Baker insisted: “After this pandemic is over, there will be fewer airlines operating. For certain, we will be one of them.”

He acknowledged: “There will not be too much business traffic, but this is for the time being. I am certain business traffic will start growing once the pandemic is brought under control.

“Keep in mind there will be much-reduced capacity of premium carriers. We think people will fill our premium seats in the not too distant future.”

He suggested premium leisure customers would fill the hole left by a downturn in corporate traffic, saying: “Mostly, the traffic in premium will come from high-net-worth people.”

Al Baker noted: “Even at the peak of the pandemic, people are still traveling to the Maldives, the Seychelles, Zanzibar. Our premium seats on these routes are full. We started with one flight a day to the Maldives and now we operate three a day. Two are wide body [aircraft].”

He dismissed a suggestion that flying would be more expensive if fewer airlines operate following a spate of failures.

Al Baker said: “I disagree airlines will start charging people an arm and a leg because there is reduced capacity or the airline industry has shrunk.

“Eventually airlines will start growing again. In the short and medium term there will be a reduction in the network, but fewer people will want to travel in that period.  I don’t think airlines will take advantage to charge higher fares.”