• Impact of Covid-19 on the Aviation Industry

    Flying. Humans are not supposed to fly. During the initial years of civilization, we were only restricted to slow modes such as carts and trained animals for our movement and transportations of goods. Then slowly, advancements in technology were made and after the mass popularity of cars, it was one of the most favorite modes of transportation among the people. Then the technology advanced some more and slowly the aviation industry came into the picture. As I have already said, humans are not supposed to fly, initially, but when we do fly, there is a certain cost involved in it.


    The reason behind the aviation industry's massive popularity is because it is the fastest mode of transportation available to the people and it is the safest also. The annual record for deaths due to any aviation incident is much lower as compared to any other mode of transportation like by road or by rail. This makes people rely on aviation more than any other mode of transportation. It helps them save some time and at the same time, it is safer than the other means. Especially on long journeys, such as international travel, people usually have the only option of flying because it is hassle-free and saves a lot of time.


    But due to the ongoing pandemic, there has been a complete halt on aviation services worldwide. The reason why aviation was halted because initially, where there were only a few countries which were the hotspots of the virus, it was believed that if the aviation services are halted between international destinations, there could be a decline in the number of people infected or at least the move was supposed to prevent the spread of the pandemic to other parts of the world. Soon, the entire world jumped onto this idea and closed its airspace, airports, and for some countries, their air cargo facilities too. But did this help in the prevention of the spread of the disease?


    Various studies show that initially, when the rate of spread of the virus was slow, shutting down airline service helped a lot in preventing the spread further, and to other territories. A prime example of such a case is India. India closed its airspace to all the incoming and outgoing passenger flights and from there, it was experienced that there was a sharp decline in the number of travelers who come into the country infected. That helped in keeping the numbers of the infected in a check. New Zealand is also one of the countries that closed its airspace to other countries and soon became one of the only countries which had zero cases of coronavirus.


    Due to all the travel bans which were put by the countries, the aviation industry has suffered a lot and has been witnessing a sharp decline in the number of travelers and revenue. There has been a more than 65% loss in the global revenue this year, as compared to the last year. Initially, when Italy was hit by the pandemic, most of the airlines that had flights to the region such as Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, etc. had to shut down their operations in the region, incurring huge losses. The European Union is a densely populated region with a lot of potential for aviation, but when the people and tourists saw that the spread of the pandemic is rising, they were less inclined towards traveling, and slowly, the airlines serving these countries started to feel the pinch. Dubai based carrier, Emirates, halted all its passenger operation because of the pandemic and had to ground all its fleet in UAE.


    This global setback has also resulted in the cancellation of the huge orders the manufacturing companies had with them. Due to the rise of low-cost carriers in South Aisa and some parts of Europe, there had been placements of order in bulk for several aircrafts such as Airbus A320Neo, etc. Boeing was already feeling the pinch because of the grounding of its 737MAX aircraft because of two fatal incidents in Aisa and Africa. It has serious security concerns over the MCAS technology and airlines were canceling orders of this aircraft. But then the pandemic brought a huge blow to both of these manufacturers, which has resulted in huge revenue losses for these rivals.


    The effect of the pandemic has also been felt by the ground staff and the airport management companies. On major airports, such staff is still working for the maintenance of the cargo planes, but at the smaller regional airports, there have been zero movements of aircraft. This has resulted in lay-offs of the number of workers and furloughing of some employees for a certain period.


    The segment which is the worst hit is the airlines. Some had placed orders for new planes for their new routes but there are a few airlines, that had just got the delivery of the new aircraft and had to ground them immediately after the pandemic struck. That has resulted in huge losses for the airlines and they are forced to lay off their pilots also, citing that it's not economical to pay the pilots when the planes are not flying. On the other hand, some airlines are so hard hit by the crisis that they are seeking bailout packages from their country's central government. The factors that were initially driving the growth for the airlines, such as, an increase in the net disposable income all around the world, has suffered a downward shift, because of people losing their jobs and incurring losses in their businesses. Hence, they have traveled less and airlines are struggling to even refund the money travelers had earlier paid to travel during this period.


    In my opinion, governments across the globe should step into this situation, before the airlines get completely out of cash. On the contrary, if such relief is not announced, soon there will be aircraft, but there will be no money to buy the fuel and pay the pilots to fly them. Not just bailout packages, but the government should also nurture the airlines in such a way that the aviation industry stays ready for the time when they have their wings back and are in the sky.