Feb 24, 2021 - Economy

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

A screenshot of Axios' Joann Muller and Scott Kirby on a video call

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

What he's saying: "You know, I have real confidence in the long term that by this time next year we'll be back towards a world where people feel safe traveling again. And while COVID may not be completely in the rearview mirror, that all the safety protocols that we have, mean people are back comfortable flying again," he said.

  • "And importantly, we need to reach a final scientific medical conclusion that once you've been vaccinated, it's safe for you to be out and behaving normally."
  • "As long as we're still wearing masks and socially distancing, the business is not going to come back," Kirby said, adding that he believes a "large pent-up demand for travel" will emerge once safety isn't a concern.

Watch the full event here.

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