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Civil Aviation and COVID-19 – Preparation for H2 2021

The civil aviation industry has suffered a devastating blow, with large parts of the fleet being grounded worldwide for most of 2020, this being the most significant drop in business revenue for the industry since 9/11. Passenger air transport has fallen-off by as much as 80 to 90% in major hubs and some non-hub cities have lost their airline service altogether. Most airlines do not expect passenger demand to recover significantly until 2022 at the earliest.

Even before the Pandemic took hold, civil aviation’s passengers had already started to move towards a “Responsible Transport” model, which requires a close evaluation of the environmental effects of each travel method. Air travel became regarded as a significant polluter and certain business leaders and celebrities were named-and-shamed for their excessive carbon footprint. Business travelers particularly made a conscious decision to delay or forgo business travel in favor of virtual meetings, and as virtual meeting technology rapidly improved, it became an acceptable alternative to business travel.

As the 2020 travel bans were imposed, International conferences venues stood empty. Improved technology platforms rushed to fill that void and worked out how to curate virtual conferences and seminars, this method of delivery is still in its infancy and in the writer’s opinion – quite awkward for attendees and vendors alike. It is currently unclear whether the conference industry and the necessary business travel will return to its pre-Pandemic levels.

New Visions for 2021 and Beyond:

Now, as the Pandemic reaches its second year, an urgent reconsideration of the role of the civil aviation industry has led innovative operators to consider implementing many new practices, such as:

    • Improving airline systems for configuration agility
      • Combination passenger and freight services
      • Running passenger jets as freight only
      • Automated systems to recalculate fuel load and weight and balance
    • Redesigning the whole customer experience to make flying frictionless
    • Improvements to airport infrastructure, facilities, and comfort
    • Reconfiguring on-board and land-side passenger spaces to reduce the risk of exposure
    • Rapid re-evaluation of stored aircraft, including disposal of inefficient equipment
    • Continuing to develop new materials and improved manufacturing methods
    • Embracing the theme of “Responsible Transport” by offsetting flight emissions against reputable carbon offset programs
    • Publishing ESG credentials as a customer differentiator
    • Identifying and removing all waste out of the system

There have been significant ground crew and aircrew layoffs, but operators need to keep their crews and the fleet as healthy and available as possible – ready for the inevitable rebirth of civil aviation. The next few years will not be business as usual, and those operators who successfully navigate the necessary changes will stand a better chance of recovery. That opportunity is happening right now.

As the vaccines take effect internationally, we will move towards the long-awaited herd immunity and travel bans will be lifted. International civil aviation carriers will start to bring their aircraft out of storage and hangar time and maintenance technician tool-time will be at a premium, to ensure the required renewals and inspections are completed. Flight crew recurrent training will pick up quickly and simulator seats will be at a premium.

We at Proudfoot are grateful and appreciative to the whole civil aviation industry for getting essential passengers, goods, and vaccines where we need to go. For eight decades, we have been working to establish best practices, reduce cost and instill behaviors for continuous improvement.

In the current situation, we continue to stand side-by-side with our aviation and aerospace partners, strategizing and implementing improvements, while bringing sense to the new reality. Ultimately, we cannot wait to be flying the skies regularly with you again.

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