From its inception to the present day, COVID-19 has turned out to be a disaster for every business around the globe and Aviation Industry is no exception. The devastating effects it has rippled across the aviation industry are known to everyone. The industry has almost come down to its knees with almost negligible business happening around. I have observed some major changes taking place in the aviation industry since the beginning of the pandemic.
People have lost their jobs
One of the most damaging things that occurred during all these difficult times is about so many people losing their jobs. Small airlines have gone out of business due to which all of their employees have lost their jobs. Bigger airlines with strong financial backups have sustained marginally but still a good percentage of their employees have been either laid off or they are going on leaves without pay.
Farewell to the Four Engines (B747/A380)
COVID-19 has turned out to be aviation’s biggest farewell party. While so much growth was witnessed prior to this pandemic especially the last two years have seen astronomical growth in the aviation business in terms of passenger and air traffic volumes. The picture now is 180 degrees around. Where every airline has a surplus inventory of planes, and they need to conserve cash. For that matter, they are retiring the most costly ones in their inventory; the four engines A380s and B747s.
Surprisingly, there are almost no A380’s flying in the sky!
97% of all A380s are in storage. Air France has retired its complete fleet of A380. According to sources, Qatar Airways has mentioned that their A380s will remain on the ground for a long time and probably won’t come back to the sky until 2022. That is the earliest presumption.
One of the leading airline Emirates has an inventory of over 120 A380s in its fleet but none of them rose to the sky until a few weeks back when Emirates resumed its operations on a wider scale. Till this point, they were only utilizing their B777 fleet and that too in limited numbers. The utilization of B777 and B787 will eventually take over the entire aviation business around the globe due to better fuel efficiencies and overall better operating cost savings.
A major turn down during COVID-19 was about airlines like KLM and Qantas that have accelerated their B747 fleet retirement plan. Qantas has finally said farewell to the last B747 of its fleet lately. The aircraft has gone to the storage now.
Boeing has already announced the end of its B747 Program. There are only 16 B747’s ordered and all of them are freighters. So, finally came the end of the era of four engines. COVID-19 gave a final strong blow to these retiring giants which could have flown for few more years.
No More First Class!
With the departure of four engines (B747 / A380) from active flying, the First Class has also gone out of sight. The majority of the airlines have switched to A350 and B787 / B777 for the long haul and fuel-efficient aircraft. As a result of missing four engines, the inventory of First Class has also gone down. The airlines are currently running with only two classes on board; Economy and Business Classes.
Flying During Pandemic has Become a Hassle!
Flying in the present day has become a hassle for both passengers and airlines. The flights are booked full but with the middle seat blocked due to precautionary measures against COVID-19. In the present challenging financial time, losing these middle seats is extremely detrimental for the aviation business.
Passengers have to face other dilemmas like taking COVID Tests prior to the flights. You have to wear a mask to fly. Most airlines are enforcing this rule. No Mask, No Fly. Airlines or airports are now handing out hygiene kits containing gloves, a face mask, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer. Not only this, after reaching their destinations, they have to remain quarantined for a few days. In case of return travel, they have to undergo the same procedural agony again. The pandemic has made things really difficult for operators and consumers.
Air Travel has Become Essential, More Fearful, No Fun Anymore!
Nobody wants to take the risk. The flights are quiet and gloomy with no excitement and fun. There is rather more fear in minds. People are essentially traveling to reach back to their homes as they got stuck in different countries due to travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19.
Last but Not the Least
Although air operations on the commercial end have resumed with a kick start, it will take some time for the global aviation industry to regain its lost strength. I believe that the lost business will rise again like every recession there is a boom. People who have suffered due to their lost jobs must not lose hope as they are the assets that built these airlines. They will be eventually recalled someday but they will have to bear the brunt of this pandemic at the moment. With the optimistic presumption of the COVID vaccine’s expected availability in another few months, life will eventually come back to normalization with COVID as the new constant in the future.