United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has become the first boss of a major US airline to warn the Omicron coronavirus variant is a threat to transatlantic travel.
“I guess we’re going to have fewer flights to Europe than we did in January” because of the new variant, Kirby told the Financial Times, amid concerns that Omicron could disrupt one of its flights. The most important airline route in the world.
The company has stopped cutting flights to Europe or Africa because of this variation, but Kirby fears passenger numbers will drop on some of its key routes following the discovery of Omicron in South Africa and Botswana in last week.
However, he does not predict the variant will change the airline’s overall outlook, which has bet on a significant expansion of long-haul flights, including five new flights from the US to London from March. coming, making the firm’s largest order new plane.
While “it’s too early to know for sure, I’m guessing it will have a short-term impact, but the long-term forecast is no different from before,” he said.
The airline will continue with new flights to Lagos, where its first cases of Omicron were detected this week, and restart flights to Cape Town, where the variant is spreading rapidly, due to demand. passenger and freight demand to those areas.
But “we’ll see,” Kirby added. The airline currently operates eight flights per week between the US east coast and Johannesburg and Accra, Ghana, in addition to the Cape Town and Lagos routes.
The arrival of the new variant, already found in the US states of California and Minnesota, has rattled the market and set off a flurry of travel restrictions globally from southern Africa.
The World Health Organization has assessed the global risk associated with Omicron as “very high”, and the EU health body says this variant can take half block’s Covid-19 infection within a few months.
Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of Moderna, the third-largest vaccine maker, has guess a “matter drop” in the efficiency of its current drill bits.
But Kirby is relatively optimistic, saying that society is improving its ability to navigate the emergence of variations. “We always knew there would be other variations. We always knew it wouldn’t be a straight road to recovery. “
He added that the airline does not want to see border closures and restrictions, describing the closure as an ineffective tool for pandemic management, especially as Omicron has been detected around the world. .