After the crisis caused by the new coronavirus, many sectors of our daily life have been affected. This fact can be seen, for example, in the number of businesses that have had to stop their operations. One of the most affected areas has to do with flights since many of them were restricted or canceled, and this is precisely what makes us wonder... Will airline travel ever be the same?
The truth is that giving an accurate and concrete response can be difficult, but the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus is undoubtedly wreaking havoc on airlines. The number of daily flights that used to be recorded in the world has decreased to just a quarter of what it was before, and around two-thirds of the number of commercial aircraft are now in storage or waiting to be retired.
What do the figures about current flights situation say?
On dates such as the Easter holiday week, airports were crowded with people wanting to travel to different places whether to visit historical monuments or to enjoy cultural activities in other regions. However, this year everything was different. In Ireland, Dublin Airport used to be full with travelers, but after various announcements regarding the spread of COVD-19, its authorities declared that the number of people using its services fell below 1000 during Easter 2020 even though last year this airport was the bridge for more than 100,000 people who took off from or flew to Irish lands.
Besides, on April 12, a day usually busy for all US airports, there was a reduction of more than 2 million in the number of passengers who went through security controls, compared to the figures recorded in previous years.
Many countries have taken restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, some of them involve the suspension of commercial or domestic flights, others have to do with the number of passengers allowed per each one, among others. But one thing that all airlines have in common is that their revenues have been reduced considerably, reaching zero in some cases.
On the other hand, the number of planes that can be seen in the skies is less than what existed in the early nineties. Last year, up to 2,500 flights could be seen on a normal day, but today there are only 20.
This happens since the mere fact of crossing the airport can be a biological risk. In addition to all the regulations imposed by governments in order to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, the population is afraid of catching the disease and they choose to stay home as a way to protect themselves. In conclusion, flight numbers have fallen not only for operational reasons but also because many people are deciding not to fly.
Airplanes that will not fly again after the coronavirus.
Although many airlines were already planning the renewal of fleets and the replacement of old models by more efficient ones, the stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate the withdrawal of aircraft. And it is not just about emblematic cases, many airlines are retiring their fleets in advance in order to face the crisis.
The North-American airline, American Airlines, is one of those that will sacrifice the biggest amount of units, being a total of 80 aircraft between Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer, including its emblematic B767 and 757. Similarly, the well-known McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90 airplanes from Delta Airlines, with more than 30 years in service, will be retired early next June.
Lufthansa is another of those that will definitively withdraw the plane due to the crisis. Of its 13 oldest large aircraft in the B747-400 category, five will definitively cease to operate, and none of the rest will fly for a longer period than this year and 2025. The main objective of simplifying fleets has to do with reducing costs. American Airlines recorded just 18% of passenger traffic, and that caused losses worth $ 2.2 billion to the company.
What will happen in the future?
Determining whether airlines will fly the same way is impossible at this time. It is even unpredictable for years to come as the magnitude of the crisis is not yet fully defined. First of all, we are facing an unprecedented pandemic that does not allow us to glimpse a specific future scenario. And, in addition to this, we can see how the largest sectors of the economies are falling.
A multibillion-dollar industry like airlines is registering significant losses on a daily basis, and this can cause a large percentage of them to stop operating as usual. Furthermore, there is a psychological and social factor in all this. Living a situation of such a high level will leave marks on people, even psychological traumas that make them completely reform their lives.
After the quarantine is lifted and the progressive return to daily activities is announced, people will want to travel again but they will not do it in the same way. There will be more aware of the danger, many will prefer to stay home because they do not feel completely safe and, after a financial blow like this, there will also be users who will prioritize other expenses instead of traveling for fun.
There is no doubt that airlines will have to face negative consequences. The vast majority of them are already doing it, actually. If we ask "all these companies will work as before" or "will travel airplanes ever be the same" the answer will probably be positive but, according to the facts, we will not be able to see how this happens until after a few years of recovery.
The travel industry is taking a 360-degree turn and the rest of 2020 is also likely to be a difficult year and airlines or airports may have to take some drastic measures but, fortunately, they will return to their ordinary life with the help of new technologies, human innovation, and good government policies.