Desperate to put the coronavirus pandemic behind them, airlines will hold talks on Sunday ahead of a potential summer of chaos with shortages and strikes that could threaten their recovery.
While trade is roaring back to life, representatives from the aviation sector meeting for three days in Qatar have a packed agenda with multiple geopolitical crises including the war in Ukraine and the environment.
Cracks are already showing in the sector’s recovery, though industry figures are optimistic about the future despite the issues.
In the past few weeks, delays and cancellations caused by a lack of staff at airports and strikes for better pay have wreaked havoc upon travellers.
The problems originate with the pandemic when airlines and airports laid off thousands of workers during its worst-ever crisis.
Now, they are scrambling for workers.
Passenger numbers dropped by 60 percent in 2020, and in 2021 it was still down 50 percent. Airlines lost nearly $200 billion over two years.
While some firms in the sector went bankrupt, others — backed often by states — have emerged from the pandemic with profits intact.
European airlines are excited about the prospect for a “beautiful summer”, with some data showing booking rates higher than in 2019. In the United States, the domestic market has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“Airlines are generating cash again, which is a real positive,” said Willie Walsh, head of the International Air Transport Association, during a visit to Paris earlier this month.
The sector’s morale was buoyant after “a very long and barren two years”, he told reporters.