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 ticket products. 

“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.


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