Covid 19 and the new normal of domestic and international travel

The advent of Covid-19 (SARS-nCov2) in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China has sparked a socio-economic tidal wave that continues to threaten the stability of the global community. With no regard for geographical or technological barriers, the  virus has permanently changed our lives, along with our future sustainability as individuals and, more evidently, as a species.

The effects of Covid

Many aspects of human interaction continue to be adversely affected as a result of the high communicability and dire physiological consequences the disease carries with it. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the workplace where work-from-home arrangements and online transaction-based economy has risen from its previously limited application across industries. 

The International Labour Office (ILO) reported in January 2021 that 93% of the global workforce has been affected by restrictions (including workplace closure) in Covid-19 affected countries. Geographical and sector-specific measures have been raised impacting 77% of workers earlier this year from a 85% peak in late July 2020. This has resulted to 8.8% loss of global working hours (relative to 2019 data), equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs (four times greater than during the 2009 financial crisis).1

The airline industry was no exception and is probably the most affected sector being subject to regulatory, health, country-specific and passenger-centric requirements to tackle the spread of the virus. Employee lay-offs, closure of flight segments, disabling of services and corporate budget cuts have signalled the decline of this previously lucrative industry. Flights and services are now limited to domestic routes for the countries under an international travel bubble while cross-country flights continue to decline despite the recent roll out of vaccines from US, Europe and India, Russia and China. A year-on-year passenger kilometre reduction of 85.3% as of Dec 2020 and 43.5% decrease in year-on-year flight frequency as of January 20212 has been observed with no sign of the decline letting up.

However, some airlines have shown that creativity is the key to resilience in this environment of seemingly unabated negative impact on the industry. Singapore Airlines has initiated in October 2020 a dine-in facility for passengers to experience first class dining comforts in their grounded aircrafts3. In the same period (July-October 2020), Emirates4 has instituted flights with Covid-19 travel insurance for the passengers who are willing to take the risk of flying with them to international destinations with coverage up to 150,000EUR for up to 14 days of quarantine.

Today, airlines and passengers continue to brave the Covid-19 threat by continuing to provide transport for critical supplies and equipment to support global economies – including the cascading of vaccines for the virus. The industry remains a vital sector if we want to thrive in this environment of uncertainty.

How do you think Covid has affected aviation? Let us know in the comments below.

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