Looking ahead to 2021

We are confident that the recovery of our industry will begin in earnest in 2021, with the summer season being paramount. However, we are acutely aware that the sector continues to face many challenges.

As a community, we understand how crucial air transport will be in stimulating global economic recovery. The positive impacts of air connectivity in increasing trade, tourism, investment, labour supply and market efficiency will be more important than ever.

ICAO’s director general Dr Fang Liu echoed this sentiment during our first-ever virtual event, Routes Reconnected, when she warned of the “cascading risks for travel, tourism, businesses, and civil societies in many areas of socio-economic and sustainable development” should aviation not recover quickly.

But despite the unprecedented challenges airlines have faced this year, more than 1,000 new routes have been launched since March as carriers seek out pockets of demand. During Routes Reconnected, airline CEOs discussed the opportunities that the pandemic has created, highlighting that a more flexible and responsive approach is now being taken in network planning.

JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes said it was a “fabulous time” to experiment with network strategy, while airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss highlighted that routes the airline would not have looked at before the crisis are now being evaluated. This agility has also been apparent among our airport and destination partners. Introducing new technology, testing procedures and support mechanisms, while also developing strategies to improve consumer confidence.

This is a new era for our industry, with new market patterns, regulations and business practices emerging. The route development industry has—and will continue to be—built on the partnerships between airlines, airports, and the cities and destinations they serve. It is these partnerships, and the resilience that the industry synonymous with, that will stimulate and accelerate the recovery.

At Routes Reconnected, we saw in excess of 2,250 meetings taking place between industry partners to develop strategies for the upcoming summer season and beyond. By continuing to come together to lay the foundations of the recovery, we can ensure that the industry continues to deliver the economic and social benefits to national and global communities created through air connectivity.

As we look ahead to 2021, Routes is committed to supporting the community in every way we can. Providing the latest news and analysis, facilitating the exchange of data through our digital platforms and uniting the community through events are initiatives that we will drive forward.

As the pandemic has evolved, we have also continued to work with all our host partners to plan for future events. Adjustments to dates and locations have been made to our 2021 calendar to better serve both the route development community and support our host partners. We will also be announcing new events to reflect the needs of the industry at that time – so watch this space.

I would like to thank the community for their ongoing support through this challenging year. We saw after Routes Reconnected how much our delegates have missed in-person Routes events. And I, for one, cannot wait to welcome you all back to our events in 2021.