The recent COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the aviation industry. This impact greatly concerns flights, passengers, cargo, and aircraft maintenance. The ramifications of this unprecedented pandemic are sure to be far-reaching, but how far? Will the aviation industry recover and what will the recovery process look like?
Below, we will discuss a few of the challenges and changes taking place in the aviation industry as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We'll also look at some of the coping strategies being implemented by the aviation industry and discuss how aircraft companies will be impacted by these changes.
COVID-19 Related Challenges in Aviation
In this pandemic, there are three main challenges that the aircraft and aviation maintenance industries are likely to face. These challenges center around:
• Travelers and Employees
• Assets and Equipment
• Financial Issues
Currently, the world's population is largely incapable of travel. Confined to their homes because of global restrictions, health protocols, and legislation, people aren't flying as frequently. Moreover, with so many business closures, there's really nowhere to go anyway. This directly impacts the demand for staffing as well. Moreover, health is a serious concern when it comes to airline personnel. How will airlines protect their personnel? Will people resume flying commercially at the same capacity as before?
Aircraft Asset and Depreciation Issues
In the aviation industry, most assets are directly tied to the aircraft themselves. Since many planes and aircraft are currently stored or grounded, the valuation of these assets is in question. Ergo, if the markets do not return to their pre-pandemic levels, how many of these aircraft will return to service? How will that impact the markets? What will the post-pandemic aviation market look like? What will the valuation of these aircraft be in the future? Lastly, how will this impact the aircraft maintenance companies?
Directing Finances and Projecting Future Figures
In March of 2020, there was a 52.9 percent reduction in Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPK) throughout the aviation industry. This has equated to an unprecedented $314 billion loss in revenue across the entire industry. Currently, no recovery playbook exists to bounce back from the pandemic. Even when normalcy is restored, there are likely to be fewer planes in operation. How will airlines make up for the lost revenue? What will the final cost of this pandemic be for the aviation industry?
The Impact on Aircraft Maintenance Companies
Primarily, aircraft maintenance is driven by flight cycles and hours. So, if aircraft are not active, the maintenance demand and MRO spending will be lower. Today, operators are delaying and deferring aviation services. Many aviation maintenance companies are scheduling their projects many months into the future. However, once flying starts to resume and new air-traffic patterns are established, demand will likely rise once more. With that being said, pre-Covid-19 projections across engines, components, airframe, and line maintenance, are sure to vary. These projections will be largely driven by upcoming maintenance events and scheduled projects.
Solutions and Coping Strategies
Although recovery is bound to be a complex process, the outlook is still primarily positive. Numerous recovery paths may be taken by airlines, aviation services, maintenance companies, MROs, operators, suppliers, and OEMs. These recovery paths are likely to focus on personnel safety, liquidity, and productivity.
One main focus will likely be on improving the personal safety of travelers, airline employees, and airport staff. If everyone feels certain that they are safe to fly, they will most likely begin using familiar airlines again.
Next, airlines will need to generate liquidity. This will allow for the conservation of cash and create opportunities for new investments. Buildings, materials, spaces, and assets are often tied directly to aviation cashflow. Furthermore, a lot of money is tied up in spare parts. Finding ways to leverage the value on these assets will help to get the aviation industry through these hard times.
Improve Staff Productivity
With so many working from home, how can staff productivity be maximized? How productive and communicative can individuals actually be via remote communication? Ideas and creativity can be maximized through remote work with the right communication tools. So, for improving productivity, interpersonal communication strategies will be key.
Generating new revenue streams from alternative sources will also be critical. For instance, some passenger aircraft are now being used for cargo operations. This is especially true for cargo that contains PPE equipment.
While the current COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the aviation industry, there's still a lot of optimism when looking toward the future. The key to recovery will involve adaptation, communication, and health safety. As people begin flying again, airlines will naturally start to recover. From there, all of the subsequent industries are likely to begin a slow financial recovery as well.