Issue No. 822
Colombian Airlines Plot Post-Pandemic Course
Even as Colombia Struggles With Covid-19, Airlines Vie for International Expansion
Pushing Back: Inside the Issue
Colombia is in the grips of a terrible new wave of Covid-19, with the number of cases higher than it was a year ago. But that's not stopping the government from encouraging airlines to add more international routes. A host of low-cost carriers are vying for the routes, and there's even a new entrant called Ultra, founded by some of the same people who ran Mexico's Interjet. Will the pandemic subside by the time airlines start operating these new routes? The country is stepping up its vaccination program and is reopening, so it's possible. We look at the changing airline landscape in the country in this week's Feature Story.
Elsewhere in the issue, the rumors can end now: United pulled the trigger on a 270-jet order. The carrier spun it as reinventing the airline, and it does. But United has an aging fleet and had to play catch up to rivals American and Delta, which are already part-way through their re-fleeting cycles. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly reflects on his time at the helm. And Air France CEO Anne Rigail remarks that the short booking curve keeps the carrier's network planning team on its toes.
Meanwhile, business traffic the world over remains down by more than 60 percent, with no clarity on when it may return. United is pretty confident business travelers will go back to their old ways in September, but others (see Kelly's quote below) aren't so sure. Several large consulting firms, which used to be among the most intrepid road warriors, now say they expect to spend 30 percent less on travel than they did in the Before Times. Even though employees may want to head back out, companies have become used to the cost savings and to doing business over Zoom.
And lest we are spun by the exuberance of some airline CEOs and the news of this or that country reopening, we shouldn't forget that a global pandemic still rages. Every day brings new reports of borders closing again, of new outbreaks caused by disturbing new viral variants, of quarantines. We may want to be done with Covid-19, but the disease has shown it's not done with us.
"I don't think anybody is smart enough to know these post-pandemic trends will unfold."Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on the return of business travel