Etihad eyes efficient travel app; sees full recovery by 2024

Etihad Airways is trying out different travel pass apps as the UAE’s national carrier expects a stronger demand in the second half of the year and full recovery by 2024

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Ironing out technical flaws and looking for a uniform solution, Etihad Airways is trying out different travel pass apps as the UAE’s national carrier expects a stronger demand in the second half of the year and full recovery by 2024, top officials said on Sunday.

Chris Youlten, executive director, Operations Strategy, Etihad Airways, noted the much-anticipated Iata ‘Travel Pass’ is a “difficult” application.

“Iata is but one of the travel passes that we are currently exploring. It is a very difficult app to put together, and put together accurately, primarily because at the back end, any travel pass is going to have to be able to collect the medical records of passengers, that is death certificates or vaccination certificates, and that is a very complex world to get into,” he said during a media briefing held to mark a year since the UAE grounded all passenger flights.

Youlten pointed out Iata ‘Travel Pass’ will be tried on North American routes in April.

“We have been waiting to ensure that the Iata ‘Travel Pass’ that we trial is efficient for the guest as it is for the airline. It is a major challenge that all of the developers are facing across the number of the products,” he said and added work is underway to sort out technical issues.

Youlten underlined Iata ‘Travel Pass’ was among many similar certifications being tried with companies like GE and MedAire using the ICC AOKpass.

“There are a number of them in process today but none of them are at the mark at the moment. But most certainly they will all come to fruition at some point. And we are hoping at that point, all of them are capable of doing the same thing.”

Youlten clarified that a travel pass is not going to the sole factor reviving the aviation sector.

“A travel pass will not be the reason why travel opens up. It will facilitate travel once the government decides on what regulations are put in place to cross their borders. It is just one part of a very complex puzzle at the reopening that we hope will come in the next few quarters.”

Youlten noted a “lack of uniformity” across the world with respect to the application of travel restrictions, and hoped all countries will embrace vaccination as the key to reopening borders.

“We look optimistically on a quarter-by-quarter basis going forward and we anticipate hopefully towards the second half of the year things will start to improve. And then the need for us to be able to validate and verify through travel passes is going to be more and more essential.”

Airline expects strong rebound

Martin Drew, senior vice-president, global sales and cargo, said the airline was seeing a return in demand, especially on Pakistan and Bangladesh routes.

“We are already starting to see some demand returning on some routes. When the restrictions start to get lifted, what we will see is the segments that will come back first will certainly be the VFR (visiting friends and/or relatives) traffic and also leisure. Business travel is going to take some time to return.”

On future outlook, he said: “We’re expecting to see stronger demand certainly in the second half of the year. Our latest view is that we’ll see a full recovery now by 2024, previously it was 2023.”

Drew said Etihad is “well positioned” to be able to react and deploy capacity whenever the demand returns. “We are already starting to further ramp up our passenger network with resumption of services into Seychelles, Moscow, and also Casablanca at the end of this month and we will be launching Tel Aviv on April 6. We have seen very strong intake for the new services that are announced.”

Drew said despite challenges vaccination and ease of restrictions offered hope.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand. We will see a strong rebound,” Drew added.

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