The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the aviation industry over the last two years. Industry revenue, for instance, totaled only $328 billion in 2020, a mere 40% of the previous year’s. Experts expect that the sector will remain significantly smaller for a few more years, forecasting that a return to 2019 levels won’t be possible until at least 2024.
Though COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the aviation sector in many ways, there are a number of steps carriers can take to recover from the downturn. Whether you currently work in aviation or are studying to earn your Airline Transport Pilot license, you’ll want to be informed of the following post-COVID recovery measures:
Capture Leisure Travel
Most experts anticipate that leisure trips will recover more quickly than business travel over the next few years. The persistence of remote work and hybrid working arrangements mean that most people are highly likely to take fewer corporate trips, if any. Vacations and visits to friends and relatives, meanwhile, will probably fuel the aviation sector’s recovery over the next few years. This has been the case in the aftermath of previous crises like 9/11 and the global financial crisis.
In light of this, airlines are encouraged to revisit their flight economics, particularly for long haul flights. A smaller share of business traffic, for instance, might necessitate a change in pricing logic. Leisure travelers are generally more price-sensitive than business travelers and may choose indirect routings if these prove to be more affordable. Carriers must bear this and other similar considerations in mind when determining how to manage their costs and adjust their pricing strategies.
Prioritize Staff and Maintenance
The need to adjust and sometimes cut costs, notwithstanding workforce support and aircraft maintenance, must continue to be top priorities for airlines. As travel restrictions ease and internal austerity measures gradually relax, furloughed pilots and other cabin crew need to be reinstated and retrained whenever necessary. Carriers will also have to provision their parts inventories adequately for smoother and more efficient operations.
Airline companies will also need to prioritize recruitment as part of filling in the gap left by the current pilot shortage. This is why pilot schools are expected to play a vital role in the coming years as they continue to produce world-class pilots who can help with the recovery of the aviation industry.
Enhance Customer Service and Hygiene
In the wake of the pandemic, in-flight hygiene and safety standards have become more stringent and are expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. Airlines must have a clear and consistently enforced masking policy, as well as ensure that all parts of its aircraft are carefully cleaned and sanitized between flights.
The fight against COVID-19 continues, which means that passengers’ personal circumstances, health and safety restrictions at various destinations, and other factors are likely to change without warning. Flexible policies regarding flight changes and cancellations thus also come highly recommended at this time. Airlines that demonstrate their willingness to accommodate travelers’ needs and respond gracefully to operational problems are guaranteed to secure more customers.
Cooperate and Collaborate with Authorities
The staggering amount of debt that many airlines have amassed over the last few years has paved the way for a more prominent government presence in the industry. Numerous carriers all over the world have depended upon government bailouts and other forms of state-sponsored aid to keep themselves afloat. In return, we’re seeing an increase in, or reemergence of, government authority and ownership in the aviation sector.
The government of a particular jurisdiction may enter the aviation industry as a direct shareholder, a creditor, or as part of a particular airline’s board. Airlines, for their part, are encouraged not to view this closer relationship as just a necessary condition for gaining access to the funds they sorely need. Rather, they can approach it as an opportunity to influence the sector’s evolution with help from an integral stakeholder.
Invest in IT and Digital Technologies
Despite the financial difficulties that most airlines are experiencing at present, experts advise that they invest more in automation technology and IT, not less. Digitalization, after all, is poised to transform the global travel experience, and carriers that fail to meet customer demands for more digitized services are likely to be left behind.
Optimizing the customer experience is one key way that carriers can leverage their investments in IT, such as by improving online check-in and booking processes. Automation tools can also help make support services like invoicing and revenue accounting more efficient.
While efforts to control and curtail the spread of COVID-19 have been gaining traction the world over, many sectors are still reeling from the pandemic’s impact. Aviation’s road to recovery is expected to span several years, and industry professionals generally agree that the sector will have to change during that time. If they wish to survive and eventually thrive, airlines must take the necessary steps to adapt to adapt to the realities of a post-pandemic world.