5 Airline Trends: What We’ll Ask Execs From American, Southwest and United

Next week, airline industry leaders will gather for the fourth annual Skift Aviation Forum in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 1. CEOs and leaders from American, Southwest, United, Alaska, Sun Country, JetBlue, Delta, Airbus, Boeing, and Air Lease Corporation will share their views on the future of industry with editors on stage.

Top of mind for many are topics from the state of the industry to the corporate travel recovery and the supply-side issues that continue to dog the recovery. Here’s what I’m looking forward to hearing:

1: The Recovery is Still Going
Despite the constant barrage of economic warnings, the air travel recovery continues. Yes, there is weakness in segments of the market, most notably among low-end, price-sensitive travelers in the U.S. But the global trend continues to be a positive story for the industry.

Expect American CEO Robert Isom, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan, and United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella to speak to that global growth and why there could still be travel gains in the U.S.

2: But What About the Low End of the Market?
Losses at Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, the largest U.S. budget carriers, are behind the concerns about U.S. travel demand. But the Big Three — American, Delta, and United — all say they see “steady” demand in the market.

What’s really going on? Expect Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker to clear the air.

3: Supply Chain, Supply Chain, Supply Chain
If there is one big issue airlines face today, it’s not having enough of, well, anything. New planes are late. Engines are in short supply, and maintenance shops backed up to fix existing ones. There aren’t enough pilots or air traffic controllers. These are very real constraints on what airlines can fly, and one that most industry executives are vocal about.

Air Lease Executive Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy, known as the father of modern aircraft leasing, and Airbus Americas CEO Jeff Knittel will explain the situation.

4: Where are the Corporate Travelers?
Corporate travelers aren’t flying – at least not for business. The volume of large, managed corporate travel has plateaued in the U.S.

Gone are the day trips that used to mint money for airlines. Now there are longer or blended business trips. Expect Isom, Nocella, and Jordan to speak to the current dynamic, and whether they see corporate travel ever fully returning.

5: International Strength
International travel is one very bright spot for airlines. Transatlantic demand hit records this summer, and many expect transpacific to continue to surge into next year. Isom and Nocella will speak to this.

Latin America was one of the first regions to recover from the pandemic and continues to be strong. But it’s also a dynamic region with consolidation (Avianca and Gol’s creation of Abra) and bankruptcies (Viva Air and Equair) continuing, and new and evolving partnerships abounding, like American’s strategic investments in Gol and JetSmart…

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