Feb 16, 2021 / Travel

Travel trends, COVID-19, and supersonic flight: Q&A with Boom’s Chief Financial Officer

Boom’s Chief Financial Officer answers questions around travel, supersonic flight, and COVID-19.

Joe Massaquoi is passionate about innovation that connects people. As a Chief Financial Officer, he values the power of capital to bring people together and brilliant ideas to life. He has spent much of his career in aerospace, focused on acquiring, integrating, and growing both established and startup businesses. Now at Boom, Massaquoi is focused on ensuring the company’s supersonic airliner meets the demand of millions of travelers before the end of the decade.

We sat down with Massaquoi to hear his perspective on aviation industry trends, the state of travel today, and Boom’s future of flight.

How has the travel industry changed in the last 10–20 years?

The immediate answer from the past year is the lingering impact of an unprecedented global pandemic. 2020 was a horrific year in which countless lives were lost from COVID-19. In that light, it is inconsequential that airline traffic and new aircraft demand has temporarily stalled. The pandemic has led to the largest sustained shock to airline traffic growth — more severe than 9/11. But this industry is extremely durable and will recover stronger than before, as it has from numerous past downturns.

This is what we’ve learned from the past two decades — global GDP growth has, on average, been predictably bound in 2–4% range. For each of the prior shocks, 9/11 and global financial crisis, growth stalled temporarily and rebounded shortly after. Global GDP shrunk most significantly in 2009 (-3.5%) and then rebounded the following year (+4.3%). The same is true for air travel. After contracting by 3.5% in 2020, estimates are that growth may approach 5–6% with the roll out of the vaccine. Conservative estimates indicate air travel will return to 2019 levels within the next 3 years.

In short, strong economic growth underpins and bolsters travel demand. Passenger air travel growth at 6.5% per year over the past decade has consistently exceeded GDP growth. Think about it this way — as internal economies mature, we need even more (not less) external engagement to sustain further growth. More travel drives more trade, more collaboration, and more innovation.

On a personal level, people are yearning to travel and connect with friends and family once again. At Boom, we want to help make that happen and ensure it is as safe and sustainable as possible. We believe in the power of real face-to-face connection, and that it beats FaceTime.

How has traveler perception of flight evolved?

Today, we’re living in the safest era of air travel. If you look back at the 60’s and 70’s, flight was wrought with incidents on a near weekly basis. That’s no longer the case; today the industry demands better and passengers expect more. If there’s anything we can learn about recent external events, safety remains our top priority. It is a baseline expectation for everything we do and every product we deliver. Without that, we would lose the trust of the traveling public.

More recently, COVID-19 has introduced certain changes that will endure in a post-pandemic world. The aviation community must now ensure a new level of safety for passengers and crew with respect to viruses like COVID-19.

Is Boom’s Overture prepared for a post-pandemic world?

Today, Boom is well-positioned to incorporate all of these passenger considerations. As the first post-pandemic airliner, Overture will have a more spacious configuration compared to other transoceanic aircraft, along with advanced air filtration and other hygiene features.

Because Overture flies twice as fast as today’s airliners, the most valuable benefit for passengers will be the ability to spend less time in the air and more time at their final destination.

What other considerations has Boom incorporated in Overture’s development?

If you want to sell faster travel, it has to be done in the safest and most sustainable way. Our aircraft design is optimized for the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). We are the first aerospace OEM to sign the Amazon Climate Pledge, and we are committed to a net-zero carbon future for all of our aircraft.

Why do you believe Boom will succeed?

Our mission is to make the world dramatically more accessible by building aircraft that are faster, more affordable, and more convenient. We are not building a supersonic private business jet or a low-orbit tourist experience, but rather a very tangible value that individuals across the world will truly benefit from. To quote [our Founder and CEO] Blake, “we’ve succeeded when high-speed flight is considered normal.”

We’re also much further along than any would-be competitors. This 150-person company designed, built, and will soon fly the world’s first independently developed supersonic jet. Being able to do more with less, and still deliver a safe, sustainable, high-performance product is the key. Boom is doing exactly that.

Stay tuned for more conversations with Joe in the coming months.

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