As the financial crisis hit a couple of years ago we heard much from Willie Willie, now chief executive of British Airways holding company International Airlines Group, about how the slump in premium traffic was a mix of cyclical and structural factors. He argued that while long-haul premium was likely return to previous peaks, the short-haul premium market had structurally changed and would not again reach those peaks.
So as IAG today, in posting a halving of first quarters losses and forecasting significant growth in operating profit for the year, trumpeted the improvement in unit revenues, how does Walsh see premium traffic having developed over that time. Speaking during today’s IAG results conference call he said the mix of cyclical and structural change is pretty much what happened.
“The recovery has been quicker than we expected at that time. So we are not quite back to the peak levels on volumes for long-haul premium traffic, but we are getting close to where we were at the peak. So we think there is still scope for growth in the long-haul premium element in particular.
Short-haul premium has recovered stronger than I thought it would, but its still below where we were at the peak and we don’t believe it will ever get back to the peak figures, and that’s why we thought it was a structural shift. But it has actually come back stronger than we had expected.
And here is a quick IAG – which also includes Iberia view from Walsh on the premium traffic outlook.
“That trend in premium growth, primarily in long-haul, has continued into April and looking at the forward booking environment for both British Airways and Iberia, that trend continues. So I think there is still some upside in long-haul premium going forward.”
You can read loads more from Willie Walsh with the Airline Business cover interview he gave us in March this year – follow this link to read more