How the coronavirus has sickened the aviation industry
Have you ever caught a cold, fever or any other illness? They're definitely annoying for several reasons: they keep on bothering you, and they don't let you get out of bed. On top of that, you have to take medicines and whatnot for days or weeks before they subside.
Now imagine the above scenario, but much much worse, and you get the coronavirus that is breaking the world into pieces. While coronavirus has impacted many industries in a very negative way, the aviation industry has possibly been hit the worst of all. Here are some repercussions that have been caused by the virus:
- Revenue loss and collapse of airlines
With some countries getting hit by the coronavirus and others restricting entry to avoid contracting the disease, flights are being cancelled left and right by passengers and by airlines themselves, passengers are not going anywhere near an airport or a plane, and the aviation scene is being engulfed in chaos. This leads to airlines not being able to make any money and slipping into losses, or even collapsing. Flybe, a British regional airline and the lifeline for many small airports throughout the U.K, has collapsed two months after a rescue plan was proposed for the airline, with the virus to blame. The IATA has also predicted a $113 billion revenue loss for all airlines throughout the year.
- Ghost flights
A number of airlines have now started to fly what are known as "ghost flights", which basically have no passengers or even cargo on these flights. Even if there is no demand for the flight, airlines are forced to fly these flights so that they don't lose landing slots for them.. Keep in mind that landing slots are very expensive and hard to get at many busy airports, which is why airlines can't afford to lose them, hence why ghost flights exist.
- Aircraft being grounded
With so many flights having to be cancelled, aircraft will have to sit on the ground, idle, except for when they fly ghost flights. One big disadvantage is that the maintenance costs will rise the longer the aircraft sits on the ground, which requires airlines to frequently and thoroughly maintain and clean the aircraft.
- People are getting more infected in aircraft
With people getting crammed into planes more and more, there is a good chance someone might be infected with the disease, even if they don't show symptoms. Because of this, people are more anxious to fly and they end up cancelling their flights, even if it's flying nowhere near an infected country.
With all these problems in hand, what can airlines do to stay afloat in the industry?
- First of all, airlines need to convince passengers that it is safe to fly. Airlines need to let people know that they are doing everything they can to make flying safe, be it disinfecting planes, checking up on employees to make sure that they are not infected, etc. Because in the end, passengers need to feel safe and they need to know that airlines are indeed taking action on this situation.
- Airlines can also shift operations around to their convenience. For example, if there are 4 scheduled flights for one route which carry 50 people each, they can use one plane to fly all 200 passengers instead. This can help save on fuel costs, as well as require less employees to run the aircraft. Staff that aren't needed can go on unpaid leave for the time being. If there are really less flights for an airline to operate, some part of airports can also be shut down to reduce electricity costs.
- If the maintenance branch can handle it, the airline can also talk to governments about not having to fly ghost flights at all and find another way to protect their landing slots. This can reduce a lot of strain on airlines and indirectly reduce carbon footprint.
- People are actually not in as much of danger as they think they are while flying. A study by Emory University showed that people are more likely to get infected if they sit 1-2 rows away from an infected person. However, your chance of infection goes down if you sit on a window seat. To further minimize these chances, airlines can try spacing passengers out on planes considering that less people will be flying anyway.
With the coronavirus not likely to leave anytime soon, the aviation industry will have to brace themselves for any situation that comes their way. By implementing the above possible solutions, airlines will be able to soften the blow of the coronavirus and any long-term effects that follow it.