It would not be an exaggeration to say that 2020 has been a year of challenges. Undoubtedly the biggest global event in recent human history, the novel Coronavirus Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work and travel. This couldn’t be any truer than for our beloved aviation industry and the challenges it has had to navigate with lateral thinking that, perhaps regardless of coronavirus, we were in desperate need of.
As the top commercial sector to take the biggest hit, the aviation industry has had to make the most severe adjustments. Suffering a colossal loss at the beginning of the pandemic, the industry witnessed passenger traffic decline to a meagre 4% of its usual worldwide passenger numbers. Domestic flights were halted, long-haul flights were long forgotten and the skies were silenced.
It cannot be ignored that airlines stand to face a fall in revenue by $419 billion, as predicted by IATA. Governments around the world have bailed out the airlines, but left the logistics and legislation up to the travel industry. There are guidelines issued by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but it falls to the airlines and airports to implement them, and take independent action. This has led to a patchwork collection of regulations, threatening to undermine the work done by the airlines, and expose travellers to risk from infection, and damage any hard won confidence that travel is safe.
This crisis has led to the grounding and retirement of two of the most iconic planes to ever fly the globe: the Superjumbo A380 and Boeing 747 Queen of the Skies. These two perfectly designed aircrafts ideal for socially distanced travel are no longer viable thanks to governmental failure and legislative inaction.
But it has never been an industry not to bounce back from adversity, and, as expected the thinking caps were put on and solutions were found. In our previous issue, we encouraged you to Keep Calm and Carry On’, well now, we implore you ‘Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.’
Amongst the adversity, 2020 has also been a year of exciting development and innovation, with a number of products being researched and manufactured in record-quick time to ensure passenger and crew health and safety whilst travelling. Suppliers and airlines alike have created a collaborative approach to try and combat the inaction from governments, and have risen to the challenges thrown into their path.
From PPE provided onboard through to new engaging concepts and ground-breaking tech that reduces the number of touch points such as Panasonic Avionics, to antimicrobial textiles and blankets, we could not be more astounded by the industry’s sheer determination to reassure and protect their passengers on-board. We have also seen new sustainability strategies, solutions and products across the industry and wellness initiatives that have taken flight such as Etihad’s wellness ambassadors onboard.
Some systems for passenger wellness have always been in place, such as the sophisticated technology of onboard air filtration systems refresh the entire cabin air volume every few minutes, with recirculated air passing through high-tech, HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of virus size particles. However, there are now developments for cleaning between flights, for example every aircraft being fogged with electrostatic disinfectant on the changeover between flights. This is ensuring that air travel is cleaner, and safer than ever before.
In America JetBlue and Delta are leading the way by eliminating the middle seat. Encouragingly we are seeing domestic flights in both China and America are on the rise again. This is truly testament to the safety measures the airlines are implementing, and the importance of passenger confidence. However, it will still be a few months yet until we truly see international flights start to recover.
So, we thank you pilots, attendants, logistics, suppliers, designers, ceo’s, passengers, airport staff etc. for ensuring the industry we love survives, continues to grow and adapts, innovates and realizes a new tomorrow today. The hard work has only just begun. But whatever Co-vid19 may have to throw at us, ‘once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.