Aviation Industry Starting to Make a Comeback in 2022: the Hardest Hit of the Covid-19


Canceled flights, empty planes, and eerily quiet airports, epidemic on air transport. Airlines from different places around the world were 90% down on revenue at the start of the pandemic. The need for airline services was put on a halt under the circumstances due to the sudden health crises and measures taken during the pandemic. Employees were forced to leave their jobs causing a shortage in the demand for pilots in the industry.

Aviation Industry took the hardest hit by Covid-19

The occurrence of lockdowns in many countries and the health concerns over the past months led to economic fallout that caused many people to reduce their working hours. The effect of the crisis continued to hit lower-income workers with the surging poverty line and wiping millions of jobs. This didn’t only create turmoil in laboring jobs but also in airline pilots who became unemployed and forced to change their careers. The basic strategies in the control of an outbreak are containment and mitigation which these preventive measures carry social and economic costs along with people losing their income and even having their salary becoming reduced barely making ends meat. 

Some strategies that were aimed to intervene in the crisis:

  • stringent population-wide social distancing, 
  • home isolation of cases, household quarantine, 
  • locking down of cities and countries, 

The announcement of travel bans and other safety measures on the situation on global travel took a drastic turn for passengers and employees. This also resulted in affecting the economy and the trading system negatively

The lack of air travel and sudden decrease of demand in aviation took a reversal turn for job growth that will be required in future air flights. The pandemic China is the second-biggest aviation market globally with airlines like American Airlines flying as many as 28 flights weekly. Now with the coronavirus outbreak, that’s dropped down leading to an 80% drop in air traffic which was greater than the numbers in SARS before.

The expensive maintenance that causes financial damages

An order of $10,000 a day is reportedly the cost of a single aircraft, rented or not and that’s only when putting it on the deck. This means that even if they are not flying it, the usage of it in a day still costs a lot and it’s not just the $10,000 per day per aircraft

Other expenses that airlines have to pay every day:

  • crews sitting around
  • flight crews 
  • cabin crews 
  • aircraft maintenance at the end of the day. 

In addition to that, a new wide-body aircraft is going to be costing as much as $50,000 a day. These costly expenses were impossible to maintain since airlines were losing money every day which necessitate the action to lay off their employees. Cathay Pacific and Asiana Airlines have both asked thousands of staff to take unpaid leave at the start of the pandemic. Hong Kong Airlines announced it has laid off 400-700 workers on the surging travel bans.

The drastic financial condition of airlines

Globally, IATA (International Air Transport Association) is forecasting an $11.6 billion loss in revenue for 2022. The losses in 2020 were estimated to be $137.7 billion and $47.7 billion in 2021. The financial implications of suspended flights and routes are huge which is harder to recover especially since everyone is still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. 

Things that were cut back at the start of the pandemic:

  • 400,000 jobs in airlines
  • Ongoing flights
  • Unpaid programs
  • 40%-50%  flights each day
  • Domestic and International flights

  Despite that cutting down the salary, the number of employees, and thousands of jobs, the industry is still continuously losing money. To provide the costly maintenance, multiple airlines don’t have a choice but to borrow financial needs to cope with the expenses on day to day basis. These financial concerns were handled by the government or other companies willing to aid in their situation. It is estimated that this will eventually cause bankruptcy among the airlines due to the debt exceeding the amount of revenue in 2024 unless measures are taken.

Back in 9/11 in 2001, it took about nine months before the industry recover from the impact of the events. Now it is a very different situation with COVID-19 and it’s difficult to assess since people have experienced a novel outbreak in the 21st century, but analysts are expecting that with the Covid-19 still not behind us, all the needed finances and time to recover in aviation will come a long way. As different variants have emerged, the future of the industry and its finances remain uncertain

Adaptive measures taken by airlines lead to an uncertain future

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, airlines have taken additional safety measures that resulted in having their employees take off from their work. Since numerous countries have imposed a travel ban and closed down their borders, the airlines also received a seatback

Major changes implemented by the airlines:

  • Unvaccinated workers were laid off compared to vaccinated ones
  • Implementation of swab tests (costs paid by travelers)
  • Health standards
  • Safety measures
  • Vaccination of airline crews
  • Additional expenses for the proposed safety changes

These adaptive measures in response to the arrival of the new epidemic outbreak are one of the reasons why there is a pilot shortage and has been continuously losing money despite the surge of travel post-pandemic. By having multiple restrictions and regulations implemented that limit the interaction of individuals, additional costs were added in an attempt to secure flight safety. At the start of the implementation, airlines were also forced to cancel millions of flights refunding ticket prices for travelers. A lot of compensation and loss of revenues led to a series of events that caused airlines to lose money annually. The problem is since everything is starting to get back to normalcy, hiring pilots won’t be so simple in which pilots are obliged to re-certification and the training they have to take to get back.

Resuming Airline Operations after the Pandemic

As the public health control continued to fight the pandemic, travel takes off again in which airlines are making a comeback. This also requires certain personal measures for passengers before traveling such as:

  • hand hygiene
  • swab tests
  • wearing face-masks
  • self-quarantine
  • bringing vaccine cards proving that the traveler is vaccinated. 

To assure public health while traveling, hygiene sectors and safety standards in becoming the main focus. Some airlines handled the restrictions and were able to re-structure their airlines through greater efficiency and sustainable probability. The airline predicting its domestic travel volume to return to pre-pandemic levels this month has been cooped up for a year. Since most people are vaccinated, everyone is ready to hopefully get back to some type of normalcy. 

Many airlines are anticipated to get back on track after nearly a year spent drastically reducing costs. But the future of airlines is still uncertain and will have a hard time recovering from the financial loss. The negative demand and sudden changes cause the industry to have a seatback that results in pilot shortage and additional costs in maintenance. In addition, the resurgence of the pandemic and new variant of COVID-19 is possible thus the imposing of lockdowns in global travel utilizing air or land transportation might be imposed again.

Airline Industry Struggling To Come Back with Pilot Shortage

Looking beyond the post-pandemic, airlines still have not been on track ever since there were not enough pilots to fly aircraft. Commercial airlines have historically struggled to deliver sustainable profitability and cannot cope with the shortage. Because the industry is so safety conscious and values utmost accuracy in work, highly trained employees such as a pilot that was forced to quit must go through weeks of retraining to make sure they’re ready for commercial service again, which comes with added costs and complications. So in terms of the payroll support programs that protection of pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and other grounds staff it is a big deal because the rehiring costs could be painful for an industry that lost billions ever since the pandemic started

 American airlines facing a shortage of ground staff and flight crew are now in demand to hire pilots back up. The problem is there are a lot of factors why pilots are not coming back and it has become a struggle for the whole aviation industry

  • One notable reason is that pilots who have been out of the industry are going to take weeks to get back out there actually into the cockpit. They have to go through certification and training again and show that they can fly for the airline which will be paid for by the pilots
  • Another struggle of the industry is coupled with maintenance issues and bad weather at many big hubs across the country causing people to delay and cancel hundreds of flights in recent days and the cancellations are expected to continue. It is expected that 60 to 80 flights per day through at least mid-July will be canceled due to the shortage, maintenance, and other factors across America and is expected more globally. 

The Impact of Pilot Shortage

While there are thousands of pilot jobs opened in the post-pandemic along with aircrafts ready to be used in every airline, there are still not enough pilots in the industry

  • This whole situation brought fewer airline routes and higher fares. Nonstop flights to smaller cities may be dropped, or cut back across the board. Airlines are struggling to find new pilots and starting next year they expect to have a shortage of more than 12 thousand of them. 
  • On the flight deck, there are over a hundred regional aircraft that effectively aren’t flying because there are not enough pilots to fly them by, and also pilots are retiring because of FAA regulation in which every pilot has to retire at the age of 65.

It is estimated that almost half of them will retire within 15 years couple to the pandemic which slowed the rate of new pilots taking to the skies and it’s almost impossible to keep pace with all the open seats as one of the biggest sources for airlines is struggling. Travelers could potentially feel the effects by seeing fewer flight options and even higher ticket prices now. 

Factors affecting the pilot shortage

Aside from the job layoffs for pilots in 2020, there are also external factors that contribute to the lack of pilots in the aviation industry 

  • One of them is the required training which costs thousands of dollars for each session. The cost of that averages $133,000 in the US and then every aspiring commercial pilot first needs to get a private pilot’s license which requires 35 hours of flight time. 
  • These first bits of flight time, which are with an instructor, typically cost about $140 an hour or $4,900 total. Some classes require payments and training expenses so getting a private pilot’s license usually costs about $8,000 all in
  • In addition, before a pilot is hired, there will be 15 additional hours of instruction for an instrument rating costing $900 and an additional 215 hours of flight time costing $23,500. There are also tons of other smaller costs for books and housing and transportation and other things which bring the total cost of pilots training to at least $80,000. 

Having done all that, having spent $213,000 on education so far, one finally receives a commercial pilot’s license but still, at that point, one can’t work for most airlines. This brings us to a point where most aviation students change their career paths before making it because of the fees and now the uncertainties in their future due to novel outbreaks that might come. 

As the economic turbulence grew, the current situation of the industry may lead to bankruptcy if multiple airlines across the world continue to struggle in countering the pre-pandemic impacts. Thousands of jobs in the aviation industry were cut off to minimize the effects of the outbreak but now it has become the biggest problem for many airlines. 

Aviation Industry took the hardest hit from the start of the pandemic and even at a time when everything is supposed to be back in normalcy, they are continuing to lose money. The working condition become unbearable as flights were still canceled, millions of people working in airlines still have not yet recovered and the ongoing demand for pilots took a toll on global travel and the economy. It is still not known if the industry will be able to make it this year with all the financial concerns not yet addressed but with the Covid-19 still not behind us and the longer these airlines stay on the survival line, it will become impossible for them to recover with the option of filing bankruptcy at the end.

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