Travel needs to return from April or some airlines might disappear, CEO says

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The CEO of British aviation and energy firm Stobart Group warned that air travel needs to start again from April, or some airlines might vanish.

“Airlines absolutely need a positive injection, and that means really from April, we need to get people traveling. I think without that, the government are probably going to need to support the airlines in fact, or they’ll disappear, you’ll get a consolidation of airlines,” Warwick Brady told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.

“Unfortunately, for the traveling public that’ll be less choice and things will be much more expensive and I think it’ll be a big hit to the economy,” he added. Travel data company Cirium has estimated that 43 commercial airlines from across the globe have failed since January, but has also warned that the worst is not over.

Stobart Group owns London Southend Airport and provides services such as baggage handling at other U.K. airports. Brady said free, 15-minute on-departure coronavirus testing at airports would help the aviation industry recover, after lockdowns and quarantine rules hit the industry hard.

“Next summer is absolutely critical, and we believe that pre-departure testing plus the vaccine needs to get people traveling again, otherwise the economy is going to be significantly deteriorated … The government do need to step in, I think we need to make pre-departure testing free for all passengers departing U.K. airports,” Brady stated.

The business has developed technology to help people move through London Southend Airport. “It’s the technology to be able to do pre-departure testing to get people through … a system where you don’t have to queue. Actually, what you’re seeing in airports now, is obviously with less staff, you’re seeing enormous queueing which … goes against the whole Covid-free space environment,” Brady added.

Stobart Group is planning to sell its stake in Stobart Air, a regional airline that operates flights under brand names such as Aer Lingus and British Airways CityFlyer, it said in September.

Asked whether tech that allows people to complete pre-departure checks remotely — such as facial recognition — is in development, Brady stated: “The technology is there … it’s the regulatory framework that needs to support it … You could get those systems in place very quickly, but obviously it’s got to be the validation of checking when you get to the airport that it’s been done. The technology I think is pretty much available, it just needs to be approved.”

The group is separate from transport business Eddie Stobart Logistics, having sold its stake in Eddie Stobart in 2014. Stobart Group sold its rights to the Eddie Stobart brand name to the transport business in May for £10 million ($13.3 million).

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