Airlines will find it difficult to resume their previous
practices for change and cancellations fees when the Covid-19 pandemic
subsides, according to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes.
And, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly expects low airfares to be the
norm as the industry’s recovery plays out.
Speaking during May 29 webinar hosted by the Washington
Post, Hayes said that he believes airlines will have to rethink how they sell
“It’s not going to be acceptable, I don’t think, for
somebody who is unwell to feel that they are being made to fly,” he said. “And
so, I think airlines are going to have think about how they monetize their fare
structure, how they create products that give people the ability to change
flights more easily than in the past.”
Absent travel waivers that are in place today, JetBlue
doesn’t allow basic economy ticket holders to make cancellations or itinerary
changes. Economy passengers must pay fees of up to $200 for cancellations and
changes. Those policies are similar to policies of other large U.S. carriers except
Southwest, which doesn’t charge change or cancellation fees.
In a video posted by Southwest, Kelly said that the carrier
plans to compete hard for customers when traffic returns. Doing so will mean
offering plenty of deals, he suggested.
“It will be a brutal low-fare environment as there are far
more airline seats right now -- and there will be for some time -- than there
are customers,” Kelly said.
Industry analysts generally expect the recovering to 2019
passenger levels to take three or more years, with domestic markets recovering
more quickly than international ones.