We are pleased to launch 'Aviation - a brighter tomorrow', a series of articles on the future of the aviation industry. The first article looks at some of the reasons why the industry must bounce back in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" said Mark Twain in a cable from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published. The aviation industry could send a similar cable today. While demand for flights has fallen to levels few could have foreseen at the start of the year, all the signs are the sector will bounce back. And for so many reasons, it needs to.
According to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) 'Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders' Report published in 2018, over 10 million people working within the air transport sector made sure that 120,000 flights and 12 million passengers a day were guided safely through their journeys. The wider supply chain, flow-on impacts and jobs in tourism made possible by air transport showed that at least 65.5 million jobs and USD2.7 trillion (3.6%) in global economic activity were supported by the then air transport industry.
Alexandre de Juniac, the Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, has said:
Airlines empower people's lives and turbo-charge the global economy through a worldwide network that safely carries more than 4 billion passengers and 62 million tonnes of freight each year. The ability of aviation – the business of freedom – to sustainably connect cultures and spread prosperity beyond borders has never been more important."
(ATAG's Global Sustainable Aviation Summit – Geneva, 2 October 2018)
Travel is indeed important and intrinsic part of our lives. People need to travel for a variety of reasons. We crave new experiences and new challenges. We want to experience something unfamiliar and leave with new skills or knowledge (whether that be a greater appreciation our planet and diversity of its people, new languages and cultures, new cuisines or a deeper appreciation of faith or spirituality). Travelling is one of the best ways to learn more about oneself. It tests us and it expands our minds and horizons. It helps to strengthen bonds. It enables us to meet new people. Travel can also be a great relief from work, stress and unhappiness. It can help us to relax and heal, both physically and emotionally. Travel also represents freedom. Travelling is also essential for business and trade. There are things that cannot be achieved by telephone or videoconferencing.
With travelling in our DNA and our horizons having broadened there will not be a significant desire from people to drastically modify their flying habits forever.
This is also not the first time aviation has been challenged. In the last twenty years we have seen major security incidents (9/11, and airport bombings in Brussels, Karachi, Tripoli, and Shanghai), health scares (SARS, MERS, now Covid19) and economic events that have had a material negative impact on air travel. But each time the industry has bounced back.
"Staycations" only go so far. Domestic tourism has its limits.
Many millions of people are desperate to travel again and trade by air is needed. This is particularly acute in smaller nations and city states that depend heavily on imports but all countries are trading nations and not everything or everyone can be transported in time by ship, road or rail. It is also acute in nations that have experienced a full lockdown – locked in houses and apartments for months.
Demand is what we together make of it. Building confidence and ameliorating people's fears will be key to a sustained recovery in aviation, which must include the media assisting in this process.
ICAO, the WHO, regional (EASA) and national governments and organisations (including aviation industry forums like IATA, ACI and airports, operators and airport service providers) have already taken steps to ensure that the risks of air travel are minimised.
The need, latent demand and infrastructure is there. It is up to the entire sector and associated industries such as travel and hospitality to get the industry going again and we have primary responsibility to ensure that we are fit for travel.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.