Further consolidation within the European airline industry could be on the cards because of the fallout caused by the pandemic.
During a session at the World Aviation Festival Virtual conference, Pieter Elbers, chief executive of KLM, said: “All airlines are still in survival mode. We will start very carefully to look forward after that.
“Every crisis so far has lead to further consolidation, so I would expect further consolidation as well as more collaboration with other carriers.”
Elbers said he hoped that the Covid-19 crisis would finally be “behind us” by the middle of next year.
Mehmet Nane, chief executive of Pegasus Airlines, added that consolidation was “going to be inevitable” within the European industry.
“There’s going to be consolidation because of the limitation on income,” he said. “There’s still going to be competition. It’s not going to be a competition for the health of people but how to give the best service to the customers.”
Iata has also warned of more potential bankruptcies among airlines, as well as some carriers having to shrink in size due to the pandemic.
But easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said any consolidation among European airlines may not happen “imminently” after the Covid crisis, due to the government bailouts received by some of the continent’s major carriers, such as Lufthansa and Air France-KLM.
“We’re seeing some of Europe’s inefficient airlines continue to be propped up by billions and billions of euros,” he added. “I’m not sure there will be a fallout in the first instance.”
Although Lundgren said there could be some “opportunities for consolidation” in the longer term as some carriers struggle with the “high level” of debt they have taken on to secure their survival through the pandemic.