A Better Flight Plan

Industry Insights

A4A President and CEO Nick Calio Participates in Panel Discussion with Aviation Association CEOs

In one of the first in-person events since the pandemic began, Airlines for America (A4A) President and CEO Nick Calio joined the 2021 Regional Airline Association (RAA) Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 27, for a panel discussion moderated by Faye Malarkey Black, RAA President and CEO, to examine critical issues facing the aviation industry. Calio was joined by fellow aviation association CEOs: Stephen Alterman, President, Cargo Airline Association; Kevin M. Burke, President & CEO, Airports Council International – North America; and George Novak, President & CEO, National Air Carrier Association.

Domestic Travel

As the nation begins to emerge from the global public health crisis, U.S. airlines are encouraged by the resurgence in domestic travel. Domestic leisure travel remains a vital component in the multi-year recovery effort that the U.S. airline industry is currently facing, but the return of corporate and international travel is also crucial to facilitating a full restoration following the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a lot that goes into those two aspects that feed not only us, but the regional [airlines] and cargo [carriers],” Calio said when highlighting the global impact of international and business travel.

International Travel

Today, there is “a very good sign – a very hopeful sign” toward restoring international travel with the recently announced guidelines for foreign nationals flying to the United States. The roadmap toward safely resuming international travel is a risk-based approach for which A4A has long advocated. “For a long while, we thought that the data and science indicated that we ought to be able to welcome visitors from foreign countries under certain conditions, just as they were doing to us.”

A4A and our passenger carriers are “very hopeful” regarding the new international travel guidelines, and are working closely with the federal government to identify additional details regarding this new global system and to help ensure a seamless process for passengers as they resume travel to the U.S. in early November 2021.

Now as borders re-open and Americans take to the skies again, the lessons learned from the pandemic and airlines’ commitment to being adaptable and incorporating risk mitigation measures will remain a priority. Throughout the health crisis, U.S. airlines have affirmed their commitment to relying on research and data to protect the health and wellbeing of passengers and crew.

Calio also discussed how A4A led a consortium of aviation stakeholders and approached the Harvard School of Public Health to examine the “gate-to-gate” and “curb-to-curb” aspects of the travel experience. The independent research determined that the multiple layers of protection – including mask requirements, preflight health forms, enhanced disinfection protocols and hospital-grade ventilation – results in an onboard environment that is as safe if not safer than routine activities, such as grocery shopping or eating indoors at a restaurant.


As the airline industry looks toward returning to pre-pandemic traffic, carriers recognize that sustainability priorities must be a significant part of their recovery. Earlier this month, A4A announced the “extraordinarily aggressive” commitment of its members to work with government leaders and stakeholders to make 3 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) available to U.S. aircraft operators in 2030. This is in addition to its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But, accomplishing these goals and implementing the legislative, policy and infrastructure behind them will only be accomplished through partnerships and collaboration with federal, state and local governments, Calio reminded. “It’s a huge job. We’re all committed to it, but we need help with it.”

Looking Toward the Future

Looking toward the future state of air travel, Calio acknowledged that challenges remain in the short term, but remained optimistic on the long-term state of the airline industry. “It’s going to be rocky and there’s going to be ups and downs depending on what happens with the variant,” but “I do think it will continue to get better. I personally believe that business travel will come back faster than many people expect because there is, like there was a pent-up demand for leisure travel, there is a hugely pent-up demand for people to get out and see [people] face-to-face,” he said.

“We are an ever-adaptive industry and we are always striving to improve. You’re going to see a better customer experience that is more seamless and more highly technical. We will continue to improve the customer experience, plain and simple,” he concluded.

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