FLIGHTPLAN, the aviation’s industry’s largest broadcast event, took place on Tuesday 10 November 2020. It was co-hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX). Entitled Strategies for Recovery, industry experts explored ways in which aviation could recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was a key speaker. He stressed that global cooperation was vital to help the recovery of the aviation industry from the COVID-19 crisis. But first, he considered emerging trends.
COVID-19 Will Not Quench a Thirst for Travel
The desire to travel is constant. People will always want to take a holiday or visit friends and relatives. Air travel is the easiest way to do this. This desire is stronger than the needs of business. Therefore leisure travel will see a quicker revival than business travel post COVID-19. For example, domestic flights in America and China are already approaching 2019 levels of operations.
These are two very different scenarios as China was the first to suffer from the pandemic and the first to recover. America is still in the throes of the virus. But, common to both countries, there are no internal border restrictions. Whereas Europe is a patchwork of closures and restrictions including the very damaging imposition of quarantine. De Juniac went on to consider some strategies for recovery in particular global testing for COVID-19.
Open Borders and No Restrictions Will Hasten Recovery from COVID-19
IATA, supported by several major airlines including British Airways, advocates pre-flight testing in place of a period of self-isolation. Pre-flight testing is already in place in some airports. It is doing a good job of ensuring passengers infected with COVID-19 do not travel and catching those that try. But testing can cost as much as the flight itself. Testing should be realistically priced, rapid and reliable.
Once there is a standardised regime of testing in place, border restrictions could be lifted. Passenger confidence would increase. They want to be sure they will not be caught out by a constant and rapidly changing situation. Passenger confidence is one aspect of recovery. Government support and financial aid will be critical to the survival of the aviation industry.
Extended Government Aid Required to Sustain Recovery from COVID-19
A second wave of COVID-19 means an extension of government support for airlines is now necessary. But this support should not increase the burden of debt. Some indebted airlines will not survive an increased liability for interest and repayments. Grants and other incentives are preferable. Although, it may come at a price, for example, the Air France bailout by the French government is dependent on a commitment to sustainability.
De Juniac is certain that the aviation industry will recover. As he concluded, for business there will be no growth without air travel.