Key challenges the industry faces today
In a cautious approach to gradually open up the aviation industry, airlines around the world have already started announcing their tentative date of resumption. Currently, the biggest concern for governments and airlines across the world is to implement biosecurity and ensuring the personal safety of the travelling public, which has its own mammoth challenges.
One thing remains certain: the new Standard Operating Procedure for all airlines and airports for the operating crew and the passengers when the gates open.
TTN spoke to experts in the fields of airlines and aviation who shared their views and thoughts on the post-resumption scenario.
Saleem Amanulla, Senior Vice President, Ground Operations, Oman Air, says, whilst the travel outlook is grim in the short term it will not last long, as there is consorted effort to address the airline challenges by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“Bigger airlines will have to cut down non-profitable routes, review their pricing strategy and go easy on new acquisitions of aircraft to survive this crisis”
- Shivaji Ghosh
“A paradigm shift in technology is necessitated by the pandemic however it will take time as the travel industry is one of the most globalised and interconnected industry in the world and need coordinated effort of multiple government authorities, airport operators and airlines to integrate the information process. One of the biggest challenges is to complete the airport process as per the guidelines. As a result, it is required to report for flight four hours before the Departure. It will also change inflight experience such as baggage allowances, food service, built-in inflight entertainment activities etc., however, it is expected these are short term issues. As far as Oman Air is concerned, our flights as of now are limited to cargo flight for essential supplies such as medicine and food supplies and repatriation of nationals based on the request of the respective countries.”
Salam Al Kindi, Director of Corporate Affairs, SalamAir, an LCC based in Oman too agrees that the Covid compliant measures adopted by the airlines and airports would instil the confidence in passengers which is what is required to bring the travel industry back to action.
“Passengers will need to be reassured of the safety or else there will not be any willing to fly. As far as Oman is concerned, I would think while domestic operations in Oman will start sooner, international flights will take a few more weeks and should resume towards the end of summer. SalamAir has been operating charter and cargo in the interim though it is mostly need-based and upon request. We had flights to some of the GCC countries, chartered for the citizens of these countries who were stranded in Oman and the return flight brought back Omani citizens from these countries. SalamAir has been flying Omani citizens stuck in various other countries on request from Omani government authorities.”
Apart from the ways in which the air travel will change forever, the new wave will also prompt many travellers to look at the domestic and regional markets, for holidays and vacations. The Airlines operating in countries that have well defined domestic tourist markets, like US, India, Spain and China to name a few will get up and running quicker, says Dan Goz, known on YouTube as Nonstop Dan, an aviation expert from Sweden. “Maybe this is the time for airlines to look into the domestic markets. People will start travelling domestically sooner than they start internationally as they will feel more comfortable and safe in their own country. Those countries like US and India that have huge domestic networks can help sustain the airlines’ operations. The air travel will be down this year with many big airlines projecting a pessimistic view on recovery and estimating a three-year trajectory to recovery. I feel that the impact will be felt for one to two years before it returns to the pre-Covid level of business.”
Never has the world seen a pandemic and worldwide repercussions like this yet sadly, this may not be the end of a similar situation in future. On the brighter side this has compelled us to view seriously the contingency plans and measures, says Colonel Shivaji Ghosh, Associate Director of Emergency with one of the leading LCC operating in India. “While there will be a drastic fall in air travel in the foreseeable future, a few factors like route rationalisation, review of manpower and salaries, strict curb on unrealistic pricing of tickets, reduction in overheads can help airlines’ sustain operations and ensure some revenue flow. Bigger airlines will have to cut down non-profitable routes, review their pricing strategy and go easy on new acquisitions of aircraft to survive this crisis. Certainly, domestic networks will be beneficial for airlines operating in bigger countries with well-marked domestic tourism markets.”