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2008 vs COVID

Wayne Pearce
Former Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at Etihad Airways

Learning outcomes

  • How consumers reacted post-08 versus outlook on travel demand post-coronavirus

Executive Bio

Wayne Pearce

Former Chief Strategy and Planning Officer at Etihad Airways

Wayne has over 40 years working in the airline industry. He spent over 27 years working for Qantas Airways, Australia’s flagship carrier, where he worked his way up as a leading revenue management executive. He then led a turnaround at online travel company Gold Medal Group in the UK before joining Etihad as Chief Strategy and Planning Officer where he was responsible for pricing, capacity and fleet management for the group. In 2012, Wayne joined as CEO of Oman’s flagship carrier before moving on to advise the CEO of Thai Airways on a turnaround plan. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Wayne, how do you compare today’s situation, in the airline industry, to 2008?

The incredibly interesting thing about both of these is that they built up over a number of weeks. In fact, 2008 took even a bit longer. There’s this sense that something’s coming. In the beginning, we were getting assurances of, don’t worry, it will go away. That’s usually what political leaders try to tell the general population, or otherwise, we’re too worried about too many things. But really what happened in 2008 was, there was this moment when Lehman Brothers went over, back in about August. When that happened, there was an immediate, impending fear that went through the community. We all started to feel, my god, are we really looking at a total collapse of the financial system and is this the verge of the Great Depression, again? We were all very, very worried.

I remember sitting around the board table, at Etihad, thinking what are we really dealing with here? Fortunately, in that situation, we were in Abu Dhabi, which is one of the most oil-rich countries of the world, prices had spiked, we knew the government had money and we knew we’d get through it. From a personal point of view, it was a very terrifying situation, as well.

We also had a tremendous amount of aircraft on order. As the chief of strategy and planning, where I looked after fleet, network revenue management and a lot of the issues that involved, my concern was, what am I going to do now? You immediately go from the big issue to, how do I make the business work and minimize the damage and, actually, try to look for some opportunity.

Just looking at demand, can you give me a sense of how executives were looking at demand and the evolution of consumer behavior and demand, in the boardroom, in 2008/2009?

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