Global airlines prepare for takeoff returns

Sunday, 2021-04-04 12:03:47
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Chicago-based United Airlines has announced a plan to recruit more pilots to prepare for the upcoming peak expected when the aviation industry recovers. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – As the COVID-19 vaccination campaign is being implemented simultaneously in many countries together with the piloting of “vaccine passport”, airlines worldwide are preparing to “take off” again after a long period of immobility causing great losses.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the world aviation industry has fallen into a crisis with unprecedented losses. According to the Airlines for America (A4A), US passenger airlines suffered a total loss of US$35 billion in 2020. However, thanks to the government’s support packages and initial success in combating the disease, airlines are beginning to escape the “abyss of crisis” and are urgently preparing for the recovery period.

Positive signals have appeared in the freight transport segment, as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in January 2020, air freight returned to pre-pandemic levels. Whereas, passenger transport, which makes up 85% of airlines’ revenue, continued to suffer. According to the US Transportation Security Administration, more than 1.5 million people passed through US airports on Sunday (March 21), the largest number recorded since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Chicago-based United Airlines has announced a plan to recruit more pilots to prepare for the upcoming peak expected when the aviation industry recovers. In an internal announcement, a senior leader of United Airlines stated that the top priority in the recruitment will be pilots, preferring those who applied and waited for work in 2020, or those who have been working on a conditional contract for the carrier. Such recruitment aims to compensate for the workforce shortage following the firm’s downsizing during the COVID-induced crisis. Currently, US airlines also have plans to increase their flights. Accordingly, United Airlines has increased the number of flights in May to popular tourist destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, bringing its expected flights to a greater number than the same period in 2019. Delta Air Lines also announced that it would stop blocking seats on its planes starting May 1 to give more room for travellers in the time ahead.

In the UK, airlines are hoping for an opportunity to recover strongly this May. The UK Aviation Minister stated that the restarting of air travel activities should be synchronously implemented by all countries, and the UK government hopes its people could travel internationally as soon as possible after May 17.

Currently, in addition to policies to support the aviation industry, governments of many countries are also actively working with airlines to pilot a “vaccine passport” mechanism to ensure smooth air travel. In Australia, Qantas Airways first tested the “electronic vaccine passport” system on an international flight from Germany to Australia last month. Meanwhile, the French Transport Minister recently said that the country would pilot a digital COVID-19 pass for passengers of Air France in a month-long trial. The national airline of Israel, EL AL in March also tested a new COVID-19 inspection process for passengers. This procedure divides passengers into three groups, including a vaccinated group and a group with negative PCR results. These two groups are being allowed to board by many airlines.

The aforementioned movements show that the global aviation industry has strong potential to promptly “take off” again. However, analysts are still cautious about the recovery of this important economic sector because in the last year or so, the aviation industry has many times been expected to recover but then disappointed due to the unpredictable development of the pandemic. Therefore, extending the coverage of COVID-19 vaccines, controlling the pandemic well, and ensuring COVID-19 safety via strict processes will remain the “golden key” to open the “door of recovery” for the global aviation industry.