While airlines continue to complain about the high price of fuel, they are showing an ability to adapt – albeit not in the fastest way.

“Fuel is still too expensive and it has been for a long time,” said Andres Conesa, chief executive of Aeromexico during a panel debate at the IATA AGM today.

That sentiment was echoed by fellow panelist JetBlue chief executive Dave Barger, who says: “Anything that is a third of your unit cost structure is huge.”

Cathay Pacific chief executive Ivan Chu agrees that the price is high, however he notes that over the past three years it has been relatively stable.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh believes that recent history has shown that the industry has been able to survive, and is financially better now than it was when fuel was cheaper.

“In 2001 the average price of a barrel of oil was $21.47 and we were unprofitable as an industry. Fuel was 12% of our cost base. Last year fuel was $111 on average, it was 32% of our cost base and we were profitable,” he says. “What we’ve shown is where we can adapt, where we struggle is to adapt quickly.”

Barger and Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker noted that many solutions to cut fuel consumption – such as employing better air traffic management technology – are outside airline's control, leaving them at the mercy of often slow-moving governments.

Source: Cirium Dashboard