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infected, 67% at day four and 38% at day five. Second, there is the cost.

The tests Heathrow proposes cost £150. Two tests would double the price. Third, where would

the initial tests take place? Heathrow, the World Travel & Tourism Council and many in the industry suggest passengers be tested on arrival. But airports are generally opposed to this, arguing they don’t have the space. Airlines, led by Iata, want

tests before departure to cut the number of infected people flying. Fourth, there is the need

for harmonised test regimes. Iata has warned a “disparity of testing requirements” around the Middle East is “causing more problems” than it solves. A leading airline source told

Travel Weekly: “Heathrow is trying to take a lead, but it’s not necessarily where we’ll end up. “The question is how long

will testing take to set up? We’ve got to have the science and the economics brought together with the level of risk. We don’t know the final outcome. “Airlines have huge concerns

over the costs. If we have tests that still require quarantine, people will wonder whether it’s a way forward.” A second airline source

confirmed: “We’re looking at testing as an alternative [to blanket quarantine]. But it could take time to satisfy Public Health England. One test reduces the risk but does not eliminate it. Would two tests be the way to do it? “Cost is clearly an issue. If it’s

too expensive, it’s not going to be an option for leisure travellers. But at the moment we’re just looking at could it work?”

Air bookings on Amadeus ‘turned positive’ mid-June

Amadeus reported travel agency air bookings “turned positive” from mid-June despite a collapse due to Covid-19. The travel technology group

posted a loss of €197 million for the six months to June as travel agency bookings fell 79% year on year. Amadeus president and chief

executive Luis Maroto said: “The large-scale lockdowns had a severe

36 6 AUGUST 2020

impact on travel [and] the situation remains highly uncertain.” But he added: “Since late May

we have begun to see an increasing number of flights being scheduled and air traffic and bookings have been responding.” Maroto reported travel agency

bookings contracted by 113% year on year in the April-to-June quarter, but he said: “Agency air bookings turned positive from approximately mid-June as the higher level of cancellations in March, April and May started to slow. Also, gross bookings generally responded as more schedules were made available from late May.”

Expedia reveals $2bn loss for first half of year

Ian Taylor

Expedia Group reported losses of $753 million for the three months to June and of more than $2 billion for the first half of the year following “the worst quarter the travel industry has seen”. The online travel giant noted

cancellations exceeded new bookings in April as Covid-19 spread, but reported total gross bookings “turned positive in May”. The year-on-year decline “moderated further in June” helped by growth at holiday rentals business Vrbo. Expedia’s second-quarter revenue fell from $3.1 billion in 2019 to

$566 million and the collapse in air bookings was such that Expedia noted accommodation accounted for 86% of total revenue in the quarter despite an 81% fall year on year in the number of bednights booked. Revenue per available room night

even increased by 15% because of higher rates for accommodation booked through Vrbo. The group raised $2.75 billion

in loans in May through the issue of two senior notes and a further $1.25 billion in July to bolster its balance sheet. Senior notes are bonds that must

be repaid ahead of most other debts in the event of insolvency.

Expedia chief executive Peter

Kern said: “The second quarter of 2020 represented likely the worst quarter the travel industry has seen and Expedia was not spared. However, after the bottom of the trough in April, we saw consistent improvement in gross bookings through May and June with cancellations moderating. “It is clear that it will be a bumpy

and inconsistent recovery with virus numbers volatile and country and region restrictions changing all the time.” Kern said: “We can’t control these short-term changes in demand, so we are focused on long-term strategic work.” The company reported that

business travel arm Egencia has launched a ‘virtual agent’ in the US and France to deal with “several functions typically handled by customer services agents, such as accessing itineraries and confirmations and making cancellations”.

Luis Maroto Amadeus reported it had

€4 billion in cash and credit available at the end of June after “measures to reinforce our financial position”. The company issued bonds worth €1 billion in May and announced cost savings of €250 million a year.

PICTURE: Mauricio Skrycky

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