Doctors, nurses and all other medical staff are under immense pressure at this time. January usually brings pressures in the northern hemisphere, as there is the arrival of the flu season. However, this year, these pressures are greater than ever before and our medical teams wish that we would all act more responsibly and stay home.
Yet, we are also desperate to get away from it all and to experience living once more. And while being crammed into an airplane with a few hundred strangers for hours sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, we just want a holiday.
Here we explore what the doctors would want to say to you before you boarded the plane.
Flying is safer than you think
Getting on a plane is not the petri dish of germs that you imagine. While there is a risk of spread of the virus when you board a plane, these are no higher than walking down the street. An airplane recycles its air every few minutes, so you are never spending the time in this air needed to spread the virus. Over the period of 2020, there were only 60 cases out of a total of 1.2 billion passengers travelling by air.
Airports are taking this seriously
While there is excellent air flow, recycling and filtering on the plane, there are also exceptional efforts being made within airports. The group Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) brings together experts and representatives from all sectors of flying to ensure there is a joint response to public health events.
The advice from CAPSCA has meant that the approach in airports is comprehensive, no matter the destination of your flight.
Think of the whole trip
Despite the safety whilst on the plane, the advice from public health experts is to still not travel. Why? Well, you need to consider the whole of the trip and not just the journey from airport A to airport B. When you arrive at your destination, you will board a train or drive a car. You will then pass through various public places before arriving at your destination. At each moment, you are coming into contact with multiple households and therefore becoming a vector of spread of the virus.
So, while statistics relating to time on the airplane might be low, you have to factor in the moment you walk out your door to the time you arrive in your destination room.
You must wear a mask
If you have to fly, you genuinely must, then it is important that you wear a mask. This mask should fully cover the mouth and nose, as it will reduce the transmission while you are travelling. Although it is tempting to remove the mask when you get to your seat, you shouldn’t. The mask will significantly reduce the exchange of particulates with others on the plane, protecting yourself and your co-passengers.
If you have a cough it can help stop the propulsion of that air from your mouth to another. However, if you are unwell, you should not be flying anyway.
If you are well, you are wearing a mask and you really must travel, a doctor would ask that you stay seated throughout. Why? Well milling around on a plane increases the chance of physical contact with other people. Also, your movement disrupts the natural airflow down the plane. The plane is designed to send air to the back of the plane and the seat in front acts as a barrier to this flow. Therefore, getting up and moving about prevents this from being effective.
Practice sound sanitation
On the best of days, the table you eat from on an airplane is riddled with more germs than a toilet seat. Consequently, a pack of disinfectant wipes could be your best friend as you travel. You should also bring along a bottle of hand sanitiser too, making sure it is in a transparent bottle.
Most importantly, you should make sure you wash your hands at regular intervals. The virus most likely transmits into your system when you touch an object and then touch your face. We unconsciously touch our face regularly through the day, so you can really only protect yourself with regular hand washing.
Quarantine when you arrive
As much as it is upsetting, you do have a duty to stay in place when you arrive at your destination. Even though you had negative tests when you left, you still might be carrying the virus. In the early stages of infection the tests will not pick it up. Therefore, you have a responsibility to wait at least 5 days and then get tested again before going out.
It is tempting to believe that quarantining is overkill and only for those definitely infected. However, being responsible for other people in our community is an essential weapon in the armoury against COVID-19. The virus cannot spread by itself, it needs a host. Therefore, your movement is the perfect ally to its spread.
While a quarantine period is counter to the possibility of taking a holiday abroad, it could be the way that you could travel to be with family. However, you need to think about this family too. How would you feel if you transported the virus to them?
A doctor would happily tell you that flying is no riskier than any other activity in a pandemic. This is great news for airlines and airports, whose revenue has dropped off a cliff. However, a doctor would also tell you that movement should be avoided in all its forms, as it is the only way the coronavirus can spread. Therefore, before setting off on a trip spend time considering if it is the most responsible thing to do.
It is easy to imagine that getting on board the airplane is when you are at your most vulnerable to contracting coronavirus. However, the airflow and air recycling on an airplane make it relatively unlikely that you will become ill from the virus this way. Experts suggest that of the more than 2 billion flights taken, only 60 of them can be definitely attributed to the pandemic.
The same cannot be true in the airport. In fact, scientists are clear that your chances of being infected with coronavirus in the airport are at their highest, as people fail to social distance and wear a mask. Those visiting airports report that people are wandering around without any face covering at all and most with their nose exposed. This left some feeling exposed and vulnerable.
It is true that airports are making a significant effort in cleaning measures around the terminals, they are doing little to police the behaviour of passengers. Maybe the issue is that people feel protected because of the extreme cleaning, robots and dogs sniffing out COVID. However, in truth, only with individual responsibility and personal action can the threat be truly countered.
So, how can you protect yourself? Here we explore the ways you play a part in reducing the chance of spread of COVID-19 at the airport.
Know the risks
One of the first ways you can ensure personal responsibility in airports is by understanding the risks you are taking. At a high level, it means being sure you understand the consequences to yourself and your loved ones if you choose to travel at all. There are stay at home orders for a reason. The virus can only spread if we move. Consequently, your first calculation should be whether this journey is worth the life of someone close to you – if not, don’t go.
If it is an emergency and the flight cannot be avoided, then research the airport you are departing from and arriving at. Some airports have better safety protocols than others. You should be comfortable that the mitigation efforts they are putting in place are enough to keep you safe. There are scorecards about COVID mitigation in airports but you are still best to do your research. You can do this by looking out for signage that describes the cleaning process in detail. Really you want the airport to undertake a two step cleaning process: first with soap and water and second with disinfectant. There should also be clear signage indicating when staff were last in the area and when they are due to clean next.
Take personal precautions
While the cleaning robots at airports look pretty cool and the engineering behind them insane, they cannot replace the responsibility you take to avoid person-to-person transmission.
If you are going into an airport where there is a chance of coming into contact with multiple households, you need to up your levels of preparation. For instance, rather than just a cotton face covering, you may wish to purchase a KN95 mask used by medical professionals. You should also consider carrying disinfectant spray and wipes and to wash your hands if you come into contact with a surface.
In short, it is best to assume that every surface is infected and all crowds pose an instant risk.
When you sit at a table in the airport or on a chair, you would be wise to wipe down the area yourself. It is a good idea to carry the wipes and spray, it is a better idea altogether to use them. You cannot assume that these surfaces have been cleaned and disinfected to your standards.
While you should do this around the airport, you should certainly consider cleaning the table on the airplane and the seat in front of yours too. An airplane table has more germs than a toilet, so even in non-pandemic times it is a good idea to clean it yourself before eating from it.
Taking the time to clean surfaces you touch might make you feel goofy and a little over paranoid, but in the time of a pandemic this is the best approach.
Don’t linger and keep your distance
If you have to travel, then you should keep the time at the airport terminal to a minimum. Sometimes we add on time to be sure of making our flight. However, the less time you spend in the terminal building the better. The time in the airport lounges is the most problematic part of the process, as you are confined in a space with a high number of other people. You cannot be sure of their behaviour either, and they might not show the same levels of responsibility.
When you are in the building, make every effort to keep away from other passengers. Even if the other passengers are as savvy as you at personal protection, you still want to keep that 2 metre distance, just as you would at the supermarket.
Safety at the airport is similar to safety when at work or in the community. You should wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance. In addition, as an airport is such a unique environment, you should avoid lingering indoors with large crowds of people and you should clean surfaces yourself.
The best advice of all is not to travel at the moment. There are few emergencies powerful enough to warrant the risk you are taking. It is not a risk you are taking for yourself either, you are sharing this risk with those closest to you. Consequently, we may all have to wait a while before travelling freely.
Have you ever wondered how people went to the toilet on an airplane when there was no bathroom? Just ask a fighter pilot what happens when they are a long mission or a bomber pilot from the war. Now we have tempted you with this question you have never thought to ask before, let’s explore some other fun and completely useless facts about flying.
What navigation lights do airplanes use?
Well here is something you probably should know if flying a plane low over water aircrafts share the same lights as water vessels when navigating. Whether it is a fishing boat to a container ship to a jumbo jet, they all have a red light on the port side and a green light to the starboard – or on the right wind of the plane.
If you struggle to tell a boat from a plane, you can look for the white flashing light that lets you know that the aircraft is on the move.
When did we start flying commercially?
On the first day of 2014 the first passenger plane set off on a 34km hop across Tampa Bay in Florida. It might not have been a long haul flight – but for the first passenger – the mayor of St Petersburg Abram C. Pheil, it was the way to make history.
What is the shortest transatlantic flight time?
The record for the shortest flight across the Atlantic was set by Concorde in 1983. The supersonic aircraft managed the journey in just 2 hours and 56 minutes, over two hours quicker than a standard plane.
What is the busiest route in the world?
Travelling from Seoul to Jeju was the busiest route on the planet before the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely be once more. In 2018, there were over 250 connections on the route that is 449 km long. The flights carried over 14 million passengers each year. You were able to get on a flight between the two airports every 15 minutes.
When was it the busiest day to try to catch that flight?
Well, on July 24th there were more than 225000 flights in 24 hours. It might have been a bit crowded at those airports.
How busy is the electrician?
There is a lot of wiring on a plane. In fact, the Boeing 747 has more than 150 miles of wires inside the plane. If you are wondering if this is far, it is longer than the distance between Birmingham and London. But this is not the longest wiring. An Airbus A380 has more than 320 miles of wires – which is the distance between Leicester and Glasgow.
Why are the windows round?
If you thought the round windows were just for the pretty, you would be wrong. Square windows with sharp corners are not so good when the plane was crashing – back in the day when planes crashed a lot. We have continued to use round windows because they are better suited to take the continual changes in pressure – which feels a more reassuring answer to this question.
And what about the fastest airplane in the world?
THe Lockhead SR-17 Blackbird holds the records for the fastest manned jet aircraft. You might have thought Concorde would have swooped up this prize but it is a record held since 1976 by this military spy plane. It can travel nearly 2200 miles per hour. The belief was that the plane could optpace missiles, which is useful when you spy on a hostile country, as they tend not to like it too much.
What plane managed the first flight around the world?
There was a time when a transatlantic flight was considered good work by all involved. But then time and innovations progressed and the target was a round the world flight. In 1986 the first plane, a light weight aircraft with 17 fuel tanks – made it around the world without stopping. It took off on 14th December and took 9 days to do the trip. Such was the achievement, the pilot and the plane designer were awarded the coveted Collier Trophy – a must win prize for aviation experts.
How long will the oxygen keep flowing?
Ok, brace yourself. There is only 15 minutes of oxygen available from those masks. However, when they are dispensed, the pilot is trained to take the plane down to an altitude where the outside air pressure is free to breathe – which is about 3000 metres.
Where are the most germs on a plane?
Well, again, brace yourself. The dirtiest place on an airplane is the seat table… yep, not the toilet, which is regularly disinfected. The place where you will find more than eight times the bacteria that on a toilet flush is the place you eat your airline food. Bon appetit.
If I flew between London and Singapore in the 1930s, how long would it take?
If you flew from London and Singapore today it would take about 12 hours. However, the same flight in 1930 would take about 8 days with 22 stopovers for plane refueling. You’d get to see a little of Athens, Baghdad, Bangkok, Calcutta… and most of the rest of the alphabet too, it seems.
What about plane food?
If you want the best food – go with Lufthansa. They purchased more caviar than any company on earth. If you are lucky to fly first or business class, then you will get through 10 tonnes a year.
When did the first plane make the transatlantic flight?
In 1919 the US Navy took the record for the first flight to cross the Atlantic ocean. The flight took 24 days and had five legs to it. There were stopovers in Nova Scotia, the Azores, Lisbon and Plymouth. It wasn’t until 1927 that Charles Linbergh managed the trip nonstop.
And the bathrooms thing?
Well, since 1930w there has been a lot of work on toilets on planes. If you asked those pilots they would have told you that you had to pee in your shoe or through a hole in the floor of the plane. However, in the 1930s the RAF the first airplane was fitted with a toilet – though it would open directly to the air – so, you know – watch out below!
Flying has been impacted most by the current state of the globe. Not only are there health concerns, greater regulation but also financial and economic issues. Business travel may still feel essential to the running of your company but you have to acknowledge that it has undergone a massive shift in the past months. Not only are people thinking more about whether they need to travel, but they are also wondering if the commercially scheduled flights will ever be safe. Therefore, more people than ever before are turning to corporate jet rentals.
There is a note of caution for those looking to book through a charter jet broker and for charter jet brokers themselves. Many in the sector up are not up to the demand of the new conditions we live in. So, if you are new to corporate jet rentals, you will need to be sure that your broker is the safest choice for your business travel.
Here is our list of the top five questions you should ask before booking with an on-demand jet charter broker.
How will you keep me safe?
Safety has always been a concern when booking a flight. You will pay attention to the credentials and training of the pilot and the safety record of the plane. It is not just your physical safety you should be concerned with, you will also want to know that your finances will be unaffected. However, these are concerns for normal times. Now, you also want to know that they have responded appropriately to a world hit by a pandemic.
When checking out your charter jet broker, look for the following in their literature or ask the agent.
What are the bio-security protocols being implemented? You need to be sure that the company adheres to the safety standards set by the FAA and the CDC in the US and similar bodies across the world. Let’s not beat about the bush here, they should present this to you without asking. You should be offered all the reassurances possible that they are doing everything they can. If they don’t give this information upfront, ask yourself why.
Check that your broker is accredited by a third-party auditor such as ARGUS or Wyvern. If they are happy to be independently held to account, then you can be sure they are doing most things right.
The broker should also evaluate the carriers in their network. You should be clear on their criteria for the use of a carrier. If you are unsure what should be involved in being an approved carrier for a broker, go back to the basics. Do they check that the carrier has a maintenance record beyond reproach and do they adhere to the highest pilot safety standards?
How will you keep me informed?
The more information you have, the better your private flight will be. You should feel fully updated on all the latest news and issues via the broker’s website. There should be transparent pricing tools for each aircraft and carrier. You should not need to search for the answers you need, as they will be laid out in a clear FAQ section.
Yet, if you do have a question, you should have access to an agent with an answer immediately. Your broker should appreciate that private jet flight is often done when there is something crucial on the line. Therefore, when you call there should be an experienced operator ready to offer you the best advice and response. If they have limited office hours and no dedicated agents available to speak with you, question if these are the brokers for you.
Are you able to handle the ground arrangements?
Some companies will only handle the flights. However, you will need onward travel when you arrive at your destination. You will need ground transportation to move you to your end destination, whether this is a private car hire or chauffeured limousine travel.
You also need someone who offers a complete package. For instance, you may need accommodation at your point of destination. There are the hotel room, the meeting spaces and the restaurant bookings. Ask your broker if they can handle these arrangements too, as it will be a significant convenience for you if they do.
If you are happy to make these onward preparations for more reasonable pricing, you should still ask about in-flight preparations. For instance, are they able to cater for special dietary requirements, your mobility issues or anything else that makes bespoke travel essential – why else would you be booking a private jet?
Are you good enough to fly my family and my most important clients?
While asking the questions about the cost-effectiveness of using a certain broker is reasonable, you also need to be sure of the quality of the experience. If you are taking your family on holiday, then you want the flight on the private jet to be the most wonderful part of the experience. If you are hiring the jet to fly your most important client to a meeting, then the experience needs to be exceptional. The private jet carrier becomes an extension of your business and so all the choices they make reflects on you.
If you were happy with a model that worked on quantity, where the carrier made money because they carried lots of passengers in moderate conditions, you would have chosen commercial flight. If you are paying for a private jet you want comfortable face-to-face seating for your business passengers, so they can meet as they fly. You want wifi and seat-side comfort controls and so many other amenities that the plane can offer.
In short, you should also ask the broker how they will offer the quality that makes private jet hire preferable over commercial flight?
It is a challenging time for aviation, as the sector struggles to deal with the crisis created by the global pandemic. Here we offer the latest headlines from the aviation sector.
Another blow for Airbus
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many airlines are looking to defer the delivery of new aircraft. The air transport downturn has been dramatic. However, it will still come as a blow to Airbus that Kuwaiti Lessor ALAFCO has sought an agreement to delay the purchase of new aircraft. It makes you wonder how many more airlines will follow in their footsteps and what this could mean for the thousands of employees involved.
Mixed news for Finnair
There is both bad and good news coming out of the national airline for Finland. On the one hand, they have announced a cut of 1000 permanent jobs. This number represents 15% of the total workforce for Finnair. The company blames the exceptionally tight travel restrictions within the country as the cause for such a dramatic move.
On the other hand, Finnair has also sealed a sale and leaseback deal for the A350 which has bolstered its cash position. Liquidity is always going to be an issue when there is no revenue coming in. Therefore, the positive cash influx of over 100 million euros for this sale and leaseback of the Airbus A350 could help secure the airlines future.
More on finances
To be fair, as you would imagine, the headlines are awash with financial news of one kind or another. For instance, news out of Australia is that Qantas will post a full-year net loss of AUS$1.9 billion for the financial year ending June 30th.
On the flip side of this devastating announcement from this airline, is the news that Brussels Airlines have received EUR46 million bailout from the European Union Commission. The agreement was reached between the Belgium government and the German airline Lufthansa, who owns the airline. It is thought that this deal will save thousands of jobs and that Brussels Airline can rely on the German company to step in when it is required.
Is it time for more regulation?
The aviation sector is always hindered by the uncertainty of ever-changing regulation. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have to remain agile to the potential for new requirements or new limits on their work. Whether the time is right for more regulation is questionable, as the pandemic and its economic consequences are giving the sector little room for agility.
Whether it is the right time or not seems irrelevant. There are new aircraft-noise rules coming in that could significantly impact airlines. Government studies seem to suggest that the new rules will do nothing to quieten the skies but would increase the cost for airlines and aerospace manufacturers.
If this sounds nonsensical, then you are probably hearing it right. Let’s wait and see if the new regulations will be enforced.
The good news for airlines is that passengers are beginning to return to the skies. While numbers might be well down – with most airlines only offering 40% of services – there is revenue coming through. However, there is little room for manoeuvre as passengers are rightly wary of a return to the air. Travel now requires individuals to remember facemask, hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes, if they are to feel safe in the airport and onboard.
There is still the reality that in America, for instance, the cases are rising again – as they are in Germany and France. With the prospect of a vaccine along way into the future, the increase in travellers is vulnerable to change.
But what about next year?
EasyJet may be leading the thinking in their planning for next year. They have recently announced that they will offer additional flights for summer routes from its main base at Gatwick Airport. The thinking is sound. Passengers have been denied their summer sun this year and so there will be increased demand next year. However, it may be planning to offer these flights but it is still dependent on the creation of a vaccine and a settling of case numbers for COVID-19.
Still, you can’t but help think that the idea is the right one. The increase in services to popular destinations such as Lanzarote, Athens and Malta could be the boost the company needs after this dreadful year. The increases are substantial; take a look at Naples where flights will fly three times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays rather than twice.
United Airlines is making the move to increase services this year and not waiting until next before trying to guess demand. The airline has increased flights to China from two to four flights per week, flying from San Fransisco to Shanghai on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
This is a bold statement from the American company, considering the extensive propaganda against China coming the US government. However, the vice president of International Network and Alliances noted that United Airlines has served mainland China for three decades and looks forward to continuing to maintain the relationship.
Any measure to increase flights will serve as a note of optimism within the sector and boost confidence. The announcement of increased flights tends to serve two purposes it seems. First, it increases the opportunity for revenue into the company if the flights are profitable, at a time when airlines are cash poor. Second, it communicates to passengers that others are flying and so it should be safe to fly too.
The impact of the virus on aviation is undoubted. It will dominate the headlines for the sector for many years to come. If the sector is to survive then it will need to employ all the technical know-how available. Therefore, here we focus on the impact that 5G could have on the future of aviation and the possibilities it will offer.
Here we will look at 5G. The implementation of 5G technologies in aviation could have a significant impact on the sector. Here we explore the details and consider its implication.
Technologies and 5G
First, it is important to know that 5G covers a range of new technologies. This tech includes radio access technology, as well as antennas operating in the low, mid and high bands of the radiofrequency spectrum. The term 5G also covers more efficient approaches to beamforming. So, while the person on the street might think mobile phone signal and faster mobile gaming, the aviation sector is looking at a broader revolution of communication tech between people but also between machines. There is likely to be innovation on the aircraft, at airports and in the IT networks.
Revolution or evolution
The company who introduced the initial radio specifications were formally introduced by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is a consortium of seven mobile telecommunications and wireless network standards organisations. This consortium represents some 700 companies specialising in communication technology. The reason this is important to our understanding of 5G is that is the same consortium, 3GPP was also responsible for the air interface that allowed us to have 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks.
Therefore, although 5G feels like a revolution in tech that will permit high-intensity activity over a mobile interface, in truth it is just another step on the same journey to interconnectivity. The difference is that 5G will run over new radio frequencies within one of three bands, low, mid and high. The current 5G tech that has been deployed is non-standalone technology that builds on what has been achieved with 4G LTE. However, what is now starting to be released is high-speed, low latency tech that is really starting to get people excited. Yet, even though this will become increasingly available in the next two or three years, it is still merely an evolution in radio frequency infrastructure.
What will this mean for the consumer?
All this sounds amazing and almost like science-fiction. We could just sit back and feel convinced of the success of consortiums looking to roll out 5G and understand that it is making something better. This would have been the option had there not been all sorts of worries and concerns about cyber-security and national/ international intrusion into our privacy.
Therefore, what are the benefits of the 5G rollout to aviation companies and consumers? First, it will reduce the time needed for a smartphone to download or update applications. How fast? Well, a two-hour movie would normally take 7 minutes to download on 4G but with 5G the download will be under 10 seconds. For the standard individual using an airport or aeroplane wifi, this is astonishing. For aviation companies, it is groundbreaking.
At the moment there are no antennae capable of standalone 5G – so at the minute no aeroplanes or airports can take advantage of this level of connectivity. However, according to Gogo, a company developing antennae, there should be sites built and available for flight testing at the end of 2020. This means that there should be the first in-flight connectivity 5G air-to-ground network by the end of the year.
The Gogo network will only be available in North America. They will be leveraging 250 exiting towers in the region that are currently used for 3G and 4G IFC networks. The 5G network will work over an unlicensed spectrum and provide an airplane-to-ground station link.
There are aircraft and airport maintenance providers looking to make use of this opportunity in the near future. The first steps have already been taken. For instance, in February, Nokia deployed a private 5G wireless network for Lufthansa Technik. It was used to enable collaboration between engineers and customers, as a means of facilitating remote engine inspections. Nokia deployed this network using a Digital Automation Cloud end-to-end wireless networking and edge computing platform for Lufthansa Technik;s virtual table inspection project.
Nokia is also looking to use the same technology at Brussels Airport in partnership with Citymesh. While the airport feels that current wifi is good enough for current passenger needs, they want the speeds and performance levels to improve ready for the next level of automation applications. In other words, the airport is responding to the increased demand on the network from the Internet-of-Things and the interconnection of different machines throughout the airport.
While we all might want to get excited by these developments, it is likely that the user of these technologies is going to be in aerospace and defense and not general aviation. There is a case to be made about safety and this technology that has yet to be fully explored. Therefore, although the technology will be available and starting to be deployed at the end of the year, there will be limited application across the sector.
With events moving so rapidly, it is important to keep up to date with the latest news out of the aviation sector. All sorts of business decisions are dependent on the success of both national and international flight. Here we look at the current issues and what they might mean for the future.
The Martini Effect
2020 has certainly presented the aviation sector with a novel set of problems. The idea that a global pandemic could be spread due to air travel has always been a worry and the subject of some classic films. However, no one realised that this year would be defined so quickly by the spread of COVID-19 around the world and the need for countries to close their borders.
The impact of the initial shock on aviation was significant enough. However, the attempted reopening of travel has proven even more difficult. With infection rates fluctuating, countries that were once perceived to be safe for quarantine-free travel have been considered a threat once more.
The idea that these travel bans and quarantines can be imposed anywhere and at any time have become known as the Martini effect – based on the advert from a few decades ago. The impact of this is that people will now never know if it is fine to travel for a holiday or business. It could be that while away the status of the country changes and passengers are forced to spend two weeks at home once they return.
The likely impact of such uncertainty is low passenger numbers. In many ways, this attempted reopening of world travel followed by this period of stuttering change is more damaging than the original shut down of aviation. People are now unclear when it will be ok to fly again and are more likely to delay travel even further.
Governments are going to have to find a way to indicate to people when travel can be undertaken with confidence, else the aviation sector will never recover.
Is China the success story we need?
It is odd to think that all this began in China and now China is a model for how to overcome the impacts of the pandemic. However, Chinese domestic airline activity has virtually recovered to those experience in 2019. Airlines have sought to maximise profits by increasing capacity and so allowing for similar numbers of tourists and business travellers. The move for more flights came from the Chinese civil aviation authority, showing the need for a centralised approach to the issue. While there has been no government directive to force the issue for aviation, there was a mandate that the population must get back to work.
The question is whether more liberal democracies could ever hope to have the same impact with such a simple measure. It is likely were people feel more freedom to choose, there will need more work on reassurance and confidence building.
Ryanair cut flights
Whether we should be surprised that a budget airline has cut flights in these times is questionable. However, what we should wonder is if this is a signal of bigger problems to come. Is this reduction in flights a sign that the aviation sector in the UK has gone into nose dive?
The size in the cut is significant. For September and October Ryanair will reduce capacity by 20%. They noted that since the first change in Spain’s status the forward booking of seats has weakened dramatically. However, Ryanair may have been too optimistic in the first place, as they maintained 70% of normal flights when competitor Easyjet reduced their provision down to 40% for July through to September.
Predictions from October onwards are even more difficult to make. As tourist travel lessens, the airlines rely more on business people. No one can predict what will happen with this as the requirement for in-person attendance at meetings have reduced dramatically. Individuals and companies alike have realised that video conferencing is both possible and preferable, with savings in time and money.
Could there be a silver lining?
While airlines are posting billions in losses and likely to continue to make losses until a vaccine is found, there is thought that this time could be useful for the sector. Vanity Fair wrote a feature piece noting that the pandemic has offered the aviation an opportunity to take a moment to improve the onboarding experience for passengers.
Bloomberg noted that tourism won’t recover until 2023 and that there will likely be efforts made at airports to make mass travel safe. However, unless the airlines get that process right, the impact on travel could be felt for much longer. This time when there is little travel affords the airlines the moment of pause they need to get these procedures right. If they don’t, the crowding and wait times, especially moving through security, could drive people away.
In the post 9/11 world, the airport footfall was shepherded into one area. COVID-19 will require a reversal of this model and consequently will take smoke time to think through. Vanity Fair point to the Smart Tunnel at Dubai airport that allows passengers to move through passport control in seconds. Equally, in Munich and Singapore check-in is done with machines, while Hong Kong has disinfection chambers. JFK is looking at sensors to pick up points of congestion while Seoul is using robots to sterilise common touchpoints.
Whether all this will be enough to make the onboarding process bearable is yet to be seen.
It continues to be interesting times in the aviation sector. It is certainly a good time to be a journalist seeking out the inside story on some of the troubles and turmoils facing the sector. Not only does aviation face economic challenges from the coronavirus, but it also continues to feel pressure from regulators and the need to drive forward technological improvements. Each day brings a revolution in one way or another. Here we explore the top stories that are of prime concern to aviation insiders.
Does it pay to be a contributor?
The CARES Act is a $2 trillion stimulus package that aims to support businesses through the current crisis. The hope is that this money will counter the economic impact of the virus for the sake of the US as a whole. Therefore, for some, the $27 million funding to a private jet company that was founded by a Trump donor smells a little.
Clay Lacy Aviation, a company based in California, received the payment run by the Treasury Department – and it is the largest amount received by any private jet company. The money was received as a grant and not a loan; therefore, the money does not have to be returned.
Lacy donated the maximum amount to Trump’s campaign and a further $47000 to the RNC when Trump became a nominee.
96 other recipients of the grants came from major commercial airlines and regional carriers with the hope to maintain jobs in the sector. Private aviation lobbied hard for eligibility within the relief package, as they argued they supported more than a million jobs. The 7.5% excise tax on private jets was also suspended to help this sector.
The question that is worth asking is whether Clay Lacy’s connections with world leaders, the top CEOs, government agencies, celebrities and sports stars help push his case for a substantial grant.
How to benefit workers
When an economy is in as much trouble as the world’s finances are at the moment, then it is never easy to know where to push the money. One side of the aisle might suggest giving it to the bosses and having the money trickle down to the workers on the flight deck. Others would say that pushing money into billionaire’s pockets does not help provide workers with the funds they need to retrain in the reality of this new normal.
Donnachdh McCarthy, writing in the Independent, believes that the money would be better placed in the hands of the unemployed who need to retrain. The demands of the new green economy are different from what we had before; therefore, we need to help people adapt and so protect the future.
You can imagine that McCarthy finds the bailout given to the airline sector unpalatable. In fact, he called it “an unconscionable injustice”. His point? Well, we are passing on massive debts to future generations to maintain an industry that is still not doing enough to clean up its act and protect the climate – for the same future generation.
European flight capacity is down 88% and the passengers using Heathrow were down 97% in May. It is difficult to see how the UK government could have just let the airlines fail. Equally, it is troublesome when bail-outs seem to be going to billionaires. As with everything about this pandemic, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.
How can passengers protect the planet?
You might be desperate to get back on board and fly to next luxurious destination that comes available. However, you might also recognise that the skies have been clearer and the air cleaner. Your sense of conscience might have been pricked. Therefore, any sense that you are desperate to get away is countered by how much it damages the climate.
What can you do to protect the planet while emerging from the hibernation of quarantine? Well, the answer might lie in who you fly with and what other actions you take to counterbalance your carbon footprint. There are some airlines that do better than others in their green credentials, so you can research and choose to support their efforts. You can also look at carbon-offsetting. Consider how many trees you might need to plant or how much energy you use in your home. You could look to using other forms of energy supply to counter your urge to travel.
While you are only one person, it is fair to argue that it will take everyone to contribute. The airlines will only act if they feel pressure from consumers and see that the climate is vital to their clientele. Your actions could add to the power of this message.
Airline pilots banned from the UK and the US
A quarter of all pilots flying for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have been banned from flying in and out of the UK and the US. The reason is quite shocking – they did not hold a valid license to be flying into the country.
The Karachi air disaster was followed by a detailed investigation. The crash resulted in the loss of all passengers and the crew. During this investigation 262 of 850 pilots carried fake licenses or had licenses with irregularities. Many had not taken the regulators’ examination, so were not qualified.
Forbes reported that 150 pilots from the airline have been suspended. Now, the Pakistan airline is banned from flying by the US and UK air authorities. This response is proportional to the facts of the case, where the pilot and first officer in the crash ignored alarms and did not follow standard safety procedures. There were successive breaches in safety management that cost several hundred lives.
PIA has experienced 2 fatal events in six years.
As governments continue to drive money into aviation, the importance of the sector has been proven. The significant organisations within aviation have proven themselves too big to fail, with jobs needing protecting and world tourism and business support crucial. Therefore, it is important to keep abreast of the latest developments. Here we guide you through the latest news.
The chair that you take when flying business class is likely manufactured in County Down, Northern Ireland. The US giant, United Technologies, employs close to a thousand people at the Collins Aerospace seat factory in Kilkeel. It is the areas largest employer. Next, Chinese-owned Thompson Aero seating is the employer of similar numbers it is two sites at Portadown and Banbridge. With the impacts of the current health and economic climate, this reliance on aerospace is set to devastate this area of the world.
United Technologies is cutting 235 jobs and last month Thompson Aero announced 500 job losses. Although not a surprise, it still must be a shock to the area.
Air travel returns
When Flybe went into administration 60% of UK domestic flight routes came available. This was not such an issue as the health crisis deepened. However, now that the world is opening up again, people are looking to see who will claim the air routes. Loganair claimed a couple of the routes in Scotland and Air Lingus and Stobart Air are looking to take routes into and out of Belfast City. This means that every route has been claimed, barring one service to Cardiff from Belfast.
The British Foreign Office and the wider government opened up the possibility of travel after removing the essential travel only advisory. It is now a matter of helping people feel safe to fly again in this strange climate.
The importance of liquidity
Wizz Air has proven the importance of cash, as the CEO noted that the company liquidity has carried them through the crisis so far. The company has stressed the importance of this management approach, as cash preservation helps to see them through lean times such as these.
This Hungarian airline has not enjoyed the same government support as many of the other airlines around the world. It has been forced to rely on its own resources to survive this period. Using a strategy of cash contribution, the company continues to add to its liquidity even during the crisis. It seems the focus on operational agility in the mindset of the company management has proven essential at this time.
Is hydrogen the future fuel?
Airbus has signalled that it sees hydrogen as the pathway to zero-emissions for the commercial airline sector. The belief is that the change in fuel could come in the next decade. Obviously, the clear skies and low pollution has put extra pressure on the aviation sector to come up with a solution to this environmental dilemma.
Airbus has stated that hydrogen ranks high in the many approaches that are being explored. Other than hydrogen, the sector is exploring synthetic fuels, electricity and hybrid. However, Airbus is convinced that the only option that will allow them to reach zero-emission targets by the 2030s is hydrogen, which could be produced by solar or wind, which would drive internal turbines.
However, if such a project is to be successful, aviation companies will need to reach beyond the boundaries of the sector. It will likely take a cooperation with the automotive and space sectors if hydrogen is to be a serious option. Currently, the major barrier to using hydrogen is the increase in safety issues that have yet to be fully resolved.
Will the 737 Max make a return?
The 737 Max has been nothing short of a disaster for Boeing. With two fatal air crashes claiming hundreds of lives and proven to be the fault of aeroplane design, it could have seen the end of the giant. Boeing had already frozen production in January due to the number of cancelled orders. This delay in production has been extended by the current pandemic.
However, Boeing has now returned to work on the 737 Max. If the plane passes the scrutiny of the regulators, then the plane could be in the air again by the end of the year.
It is estimated that the grounding of the Max due to the safety concerns have cost Boeing $18 billion. Therefore, it entered the pandemic in a relatively weak position and in April it announced plans to lose 16000 jobs, which accounts for 10% of its workforce.
However, even though the 737 Max could return to the air, the orders might not be forthcoming. For instance, nearly one hundred were on the order books from Norwegian Air, which the carrier no longer plans to buy. It is struggling due to the current economic conditions – and it is likely not the only one.
Therefore, could the dual problems of the safety issues and the virus see the end to the Boeing 737 Max? Boeing claims to still have several thousand orders and will reduce production by half to counter any issues created by the cancelled orders. As airlines across the globe are losing millions each day, it is hard to see how Boeing will reincarnate the troubled plane.
July News Round-Up
Probably the biggest question that faces us is what happens if the significant airlines collapse. It would have been unfeasible to suggest such a problem one year ago. However, now with the threat of a virus lingering for years to come, the aviation sector might not survive Covid-19. The aviation consultant CAPA has issued a warning that most of the world’s airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May 2021.
Airlines that have already gone
Although this “what if” question feels theoretical, for some airlines business has already moved into administration and bankruptcy. On Thursday 5th March 2020, Flybe entered administration. To be fair, this organisation was already on the brink of collapse when the lockdown threatened. Despite the significant investment by a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, the company was always on the edge.
Another airline to disappear is Trans States Airlines in the US. Again in March 2020, was forced to close its doors early. It was already planning to end its business in 2020 but the impacts of coronavirus pushing it over the edge much quicker. April saw the end of Virgin Australia, which is possibly a bigger shock to the sector. The Brisbane-based airline suspended operations and furloughed employees but was still losing money through necessary operating costs. It was not feasible for the company to continue losing money this way. Richard Branson was forced to seek government assistance from the British government to protect other Virgin airline companies.
One of the latest companies to move into administration is Avianca from Colombia. This is a sad loss to aviation, with the largest and oldest South American airline going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. With flight operations grounded since March due to the virus.
If we look to the UK and the US as two examples of Government intervention, we can see the importance of the aviation sector to the global economy. In the UK, there has been an extensive furlough scheme, which has allowed aviation companies to send the workforce home while the taxpayer pays them. Airlines such as British Airways, Easy Jet, Wizz Air and Ryanair have taken £1.8bn from the UK COVID relief scheme. Fifty-three other companies have taken advantage of the Bank of England Financing Facilities.
In the US, many airlines are safe now due to the bailout bill offered by Congress. The stimulus bill includes $58 billion for airlines, including $29 billion for payroll grants and $29 in loans. Despite this help, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alendre de Juniac has warned that many airlines will be forced to consolidate or to shut down completely.
Airbus has warned that the aviation sector will take five years to recover from COVID-19 – and this is if the crisis begins to decrease this year. With the threat of a second-wave and maybe even a third-wave, the chances that the effects of the pandemic will reverse from now are slim. Therefore, it is not such a hypothetical to suggest that aviation could be under threat, especially as the global economy goes into the likely recession – and maybe even depression.
The airline industry will continue in chaos while passenger flight revenues continue to be all but wiped out. British Airlines is a sign that even the larger companies are under threat, as they recently announced a plan to 12000 jobs. This is almost a third of British Airway’s entire workforce. When the furlough scheme ends in the UK in October, it is likely to be only one of many aviation companies looking to lay-off staff. Airbus itself is looking to cut jobs, and it employs 135000 employees worldwide.
In the short term, the key to survival will be their ability to adapt to COVID-safe modes of working. The airlines will also need to work out how to deal with uneven recovery. The lockdowns are likely to come and go based on infection levels – and so there may be only windows of travel available to consumers. It is expected that airlines will need to impose higher prices on periods when the chances of travel are highest – as this is where the demand will be.
However, as well as the threats posed by the pandemic, there are also opportunities being taken by some. There is an acceleration towards lower carbon-emissions, which should help the companies long-term future. With much of the success of aviation based on public relations with passengers, the change to carbon-neutral technology in this period could be a bonus – and a future cost-saving. Airlines will undoubtedly need to use air quality as a feature of their advertising. It has become all too clear to the global population the real effects of air travel on air quality. The skies cleared during the lockdown. Therefore, the airlines will feel the pressure to boast about the work they are doing to clean up their act.
If flying does return to what it used to be, it is likely to be a very different affair. It is expected, for instance, that the queue at immigration will be much longer. There will need to be checks on passengers at the airport and potential for an isolation period on the other side. This will need to be processed and administered, which will all take much longer. It will also be likely that you will be expected to carry more than your passport, as you will need to prove your immunity or your negative test results. Once vaccinations are available, you will also likely need a certificate to prove you have been protected from the virus.
There is general fatigue with the pandemic and the restrictions it places on our lives. However, the COVID-19 virus shows no sign of relenting and global problems persist. In this context, we explore the latest news from the sector and consider its implications.
F-35 Program Stalled
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that COVID-19 has dented the production of the F-35, though it is promising that development continues. You might consider the impact of one program should be of little consequence in the broader context. However, Lockheed Martin F-35 is the largest global defence program underway. Therefore, there are a vast number of domestic and international suppliers impacted by the drop in production rate.
There is calculated to be a three-month delay on production with its accompanying consequences on the lives of those who financially rely on this program. However, VP of Lockheed Martin believes that the company can ramp up production above pre-COVID levels to help with the recovery for all involved. They predict this will happen in the late summer or early autumn.
Epic granted production certification for E1000
The FAA has granted production certification for the E100, an Epic Aircraft. The approval from the FAA allows this Oregan-based company to move headlong into the manufacture of the carbon-fibre, six-seat turboprop single-engine plane. The certification permits Epic to duplicate the design of the approved model in future jets.
Epic admits that gaining FAA approval is a significant milestone, as it offers validation of production processes and quality assurance systems. The company are grateful to the FAA for the rapid adoption of new tools and technologies that helps overcome the barriers created by the pandemic.
Diversity has to be another focus in 2020
2020 has been quite the year for momentous events and changing attitudes. The pandemic may have dominated a lot of the headlines but the demand that “Black Lives Matter” has taken a fair few too. However, diversity is not just about race but also a matter of gender too.
During an FIA Connect 2020 session, four female senior executives stressed the need for more diversity in the sector. They were speaking as part of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter. This is an initiative that was launched during the 2018 Farnborough air show and has attracted more than 200 companies since this beginning.
The stats are impressive. Companies, where there is gender diversity within the executive team, outperform others on profit by 21% and are 27% more likely to generate value. However, the jobs report still makes terrible reading for the aviation sector, where an imbalance is still rife. The topic of diversity seems to be as urgent as ever, even though the initiative has been in place for two years now. Female pilots, for instance, only a total of 6% of the entire population – and this is one position in a sector that favours men.
Fire on Ethiopian Airliner
Can there be anything more terrifying than the idea of a fire on a plane? Such was the situation faced at Shanghai Pudong International Airport when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 freighter suffered significant damage.
The 777 airliner caught fire while being loaded ready for its flight to Santiago, Chile. By the time the fire was brought under control, the damage was extensive. The widebody’s fuselage has been severely burned. Fortunately, all ground staff and flight crew were safe.
The cause for the fire is under investigation and all officials remained tight-lipped. Ethiopian Airlines promised to cooperate fully with the Chinese Civil Aviation Authorities. Undoubtedly, this damage to one of only 10 Boeing 777 freighters will be a significant concern for the company.
New emissions standards proposed
The EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency) has proposed a new standard for large subsonic turbine-powered aeroplanes to meet. Although it is pleasing to hear that standards are tightening, the proposals only equal those adopted by ICAO three years ago.
The proposal from the US-based EPA directs the FAA to establish new regulations to ensure compliance with these new proposals. The requirements apply to the new production of jet aeroplanes with an MTOW of more than 5700kg/ 12500 pounds. From Jan 2023 this will apply to those with an MTOW of 60000KG/ 132270 pounds or less for those with 19 passenger seats or less.) It would also apply to turboprop-powered planes with an MTOW greater than 8618kg/ 19000lbs. However, it also prohibits any change should there be a significant increase in noise or if the changes would adversely impact safety.
The proposals are set for publication in the Federal Register and will be open for comments for 60 days.
It is, in some ways, refreshing to see that issues of regulation are showing up in aviation news once more. The pandemic has dominated the world news in all sectors and pushed any sort of normalcy aside. With the return of the regulators comes a sense that aviation is about to come back online and be ready for business again. The news about delays and supply chain issues are certainly a concern and we will have to wait and see what the long term consequences of 2020 will be on aviation.
Aviation may have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic devastation; however, it continues to innovate and adapt. Here we look at the latest news coming out of the sector, exploring what this means for the future.
Airbus in Japan
Airbus marked 60 years in Japan this July, as its presence began in 1060 under the predecessor name of Sud Aviation. They have more than 370 of the company’s helicopters in the skies over Japan. The company, based in Europe, has an impressive 53% market share in the country, serving more than 100 operators.
The success of Airbus in the region is set to continue, as they secured almost half the new bookings available in Japan. They also delivered 10 new helicopters last year. Japan’s National Police Agency has increased its Airbus fleet to 30.
Airbus is a major employer in Japan, with 330 employees in Tokyo and Kobe. The factories in these regions offer aircraft completion, maintenance and technical support. They also serve as trainers for those wishing to fly the Airbus. The new hanger in Kobe increased Airbus capacity by 60%, which bodes well for the relationship between this aviation company and the Japanese people.
Symposium gets the go-ahead
The Electric Aircraft Symposium will be held online this year due to the threat of COVID-19. The 14th annual event was in danger of being cancelled but has moved online to stay within current regulations. The event is being jointly hosted by the Vertical Flight Society and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency.
The agenda of the symposium this July 28th to 30th will focus on the concerns of leading industry experts. The panellists will be asked to speak on an area of concern that most relates to their expertise, whether this is urban air mobility, community engagement, regional air services or more. It is exciting to see stakeholders from manufacturing, academia, as well as the armed forces.
Newscopter versus drone
The beginning of July saw an incident that highlighted the increasing dangers of crowded urban air space. The NTSB concluded that the helicopter from the Los Angeles news outlet was damaged due to a strike with a drone. The damage was consistent with a hard object made of polycarbonate about the size of a drone.
Although no one on the helicopter was hurt and the damage to the aircraft marginal, the pilot still made a precautionary landing. What is disturbing is that the newscopter was flying at 110 knots and at an altitude of 1100 feet. Therefore, the consequences on the strike with the drone could have been much worse. Investigations have failed to identify the drone or the operator.
The incident surely raises questions about how to keep the skies above cities safe now that there are so many amateur drone operators around. It is likely that there will soon be some regulation put in place for the sake of pilots and for those walking the streets below.
Laser versus helicopter
A man who pointed a laser at a helicopter has been sent to federal prison for 27 months. He will also be expected to serve three years’ probation. The man, 34-year-old Roger Shane John pleaded guilty to striking the sheriff’s helicopter with an 85mw green laser, which is 17 times more powerful than allowed.
The consequences of John’s crime could have been significant. The pilot and tactical officer were hit with the laser, which have been known to cause significant damage to the eyes. However, it is more the fact that they were forced to abort the call they were on. They were responding to a plea for help from someone threatened by domestic violence. John also admitted to knowing that his behaviour was illegal.
The acceptance of wrongdoing saved the man from the more severe punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250000.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 released
The all-new Microsoft Flight Simulator delivers some pretty impressive graphics as well as real-time live traffic, which encourages flight awareness. This is the next level of simulation, as there has been an emphasis on hyper-realistic terrain – including weather and buildings. Not only is it beautiful to be within the game but it is also a testing experience for the pilot.
Microsoft worked with FlightAware to provide the real-time data feed on air traffic. This data is gathered from the company’s global terrestrial ADS-B network that has more than 28000 receivers. Therefore, this gives the simulator a new level of realism, as the pilots are forced to share the airspace with others – matching patterns they would see in the real world. This pattern is also apparent at airports both on the land and in the air. Therefore, getting to the airport in your slot becomes a new challenge.
Garmin GI 275 Approved
The Garmin GI 275 electronic flight instruments are now to be installed in Part 27 helicopters after passing through the field approval process. This instrumentation mounts in the rear panel and replaces much older models. It is touchscreen and has dual concentric knobs.
The Garmin GI 275 can include a course-deviation indicator, altimeter display and a multifunction display. It has been tested and proven to deal with high degrees of temperature change and excessive vibration.
This model also includes built-in Wi-Fi. This means that updates can be transferred wirelessly and multiple models can be synced within the same aircraft. The WiFi also allows the sharing of GPS position and offer backup altitude information.
As we are still in the strange reality of COVID-19, how is the aviation sector continuing to evolve to the new ways of working? Here we explore the latest news from aviation, keeping you up to date.
UK and quarantine
Apart from the seeming impossibility of flight and social distancing, the UK 14-day quarantine is the leading threat to the aviation sector. The UK, in an attempt to encourage the recovery of the economy, has issued flight resumption guidance. However, this guidance has come with something of a sting in the tail.
First, the Minister for Transport, Grant Shapps still maintains that the advice should be that UK people to avoid all non-essential travel is to be avoided. Therefore, the hope there would be a rush to book holidays has been squashed. Even if people wanted to ignore the advice coming out of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, such advice would make getting travel insurance impossible.
More pressingly, on return from a trip, those who have travelled would need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Therefore, any two-week holiday would necessarily take a month out of the year.
It is likely that this news is more challenging for business travellers who may have hoped to resume trips to The City. It would be wholly impractical to arrive for a day of business meetings to then be expected to stay in the country two weeks before you could interact.
While there has been talk of opening air bridges with other countries, it seems unlikely while the UK is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. There are few other countries that couldn’t claim they are in a better situation than the UK, making any quarantine farcical.
And then there is the price war
The bounce back from the virus will not be easy. While companies make their first steps into the resumption of operations, they are dealing with a global recession and a consumer base that is reticent to get back onto an aeroplane. There is going to be a struggle to get cash flowing through these airline businesses once more.
In an attempt to lure those afraid to fly back into the air, many European airlines are dramatically cutting prices. The thought process is sensible. To build confidence in the safety of flying in the time of an airborne virus is essential. Once people have climbed back on board once, consumer confidence will return.
EasyJet is selling millions of seats at about £30 while operating about half its routes in July and August. Rival Ryanair is also cutting fairs by a massive 50% to tempt people back. Ryanair is clear though, seat demand will direct pricing policy. Wizz Air, another European low-cost airline, is also significantly cutting prices. Everyone is clamouring to be the first choice of the limited clientele available and so become the airline of choice when the recovery sets in.
Consequently, for many, this battle to see who can offer the cheapest flights feels a lot like a price war. However, with a reduction in demand so brutal, it might also be a reality of doing business at this time.
And then there is the airport
It might be easy to get distracted by the fate of the airlines. A photograph of an apron at an airport filled with parked aeroplanes is a powerful reminder of the money being lost. However, with no take offs and no passengers walking through terminals, airports also struggle to survive in this new time.
There are ten airports in Russia that have applied to the civil aviation regulator for subsidies, including Moscow’s Sheremetyevo. At the beginning of June, the Russian government issues a subsidy decree that promised partial reimbursements for loss of profits during the pandemic. The hope is that the state support will help continue the operation of airports while travel is interrupted.
Usually, Sheremetyevo would record 3.3 million passengers in a month. In April, it reported just 161,000 passengers. There is hope that the required subsidies will be approved in a matter of days, helping this airport to continue to trade in such difficult times.
Sure, the headline of this update is a gratuitous attempt to grab your attention. Yet, there is a real issue here. How can you go to the toilet on an aeroplane in a world with a pandemic? There are a host of devices that mean you can go through most of life without touching surfaces but sitting on the toilet on a flight seems to be a deal-breaker. You would need impressively strong thighs to maintain a squat during even the mildest turbulence. Also, those cubicles are really small – no, really – so small. Keeping all body parts away from the edge of a toilet on a plane would be an act of contortionist brilliance.
Jokes aside, the need for cabin solutions is pressing. There is a need for a hands-free experience of using aircraft lavatories or a means of sanitising the area to keep passengers safe. The first move towards foot-controlled switches or infrared controls seems a sensible move. Also, devices will need to replace the need for wipes or paper towels too.
Airlines are going to have to cover all the bases in the future – and the toilets are definitely one of these bases. People on a long haul flight can’t be expected to hold on but equally have every right to worry about the safety of a confined area that could house a deadly virus.
You might find the headline of this article implausible. If you are looking to charter a plane, you are probably in the unique position of not worrying too much about money. However, a recent survey focused on the viability of private charter flights for the top CEOs of companies. The survey looked at the ratio between the CEOs hourly salaries, the cost of commercial flights and the flight time and the cost of private jets. It is likely that you will find the results surprising – or not – but let’s explore the issue in more depth.
The argument for private jets
You might need convincing of the arguments before we get to the case studies. You might be overwhelmed by the sense of extravagance of allowing executives to fly by private jet, even if you are comfortable with first-class travel. The main argument for the choice of a charter flight over first-class travel is the adage “time is money”.
The amount of time it takes on a commercial flight can make the saving you feel you are making disappear. However, it is not just about flight time. Your executive will avoid the crowded terminals, security lines, the fight for early board and then the traffic issues that occur in airports. It is possible that chartering a flight could half the time devoted to travel. If you look at the salaries of executives, you could, therefore, save significant amounts by reducing the journey time by this amount.
In the following case studies, the travel times quoted are the fastest commercial flights available. The calculations also assume that a CEO works 40 hours per week for every week of the year.
Case Study 1: The McKeeson Corporation
McKeeson Corporation is a giant in the pharmaceutical sector. The CEO, in June of 2020, is John Hammergren, who enjoys a salary of $131.2 million a year or a crazy $63,077 an hour. It is fair to point out that Hammergren is the highest paid Chief Executive in America.
The CEO is based in San Francisco and spends a lot of time travelling to Quebec in Canada, the HQ of the company in this country. If we include time spent at the airport and the likely layover at Toronto, the saved time would be over 10 hours. Therefore, the cost of this journey in time and money is well over $600,000.
If you were to hire a nine-seat Citation Sovereign, the flight would be about five hours. It could cost about $40000 to hire the plane. Therefore, the saving is about $350,000 – a crazy amount of money. This assumes that the savings on time would be huge.
Case Study 2: Charter Communication
In June 2020, the CEO of Charter Communication is Thomas Rutledge. The salary for running a major telecommunications company is $98 million a year. This equates to over $47000 an hour. The HQ of the company is in Connecticut but the main operations take place in St Louis, Missouri. This flight takes three domestic flights, stopping in Atlanta and Detroit before arriving in Connecticut. The travel time is eight hours.
This means that the cost in time for Rutledge to make this journey commercially would be $47000 times by eight plus the addition of a first-class ticket. The cost would come in about $380,000. However, hiring an eight-seat Learjet 75 will take two hours and 5 minutes and would cost $18500. Therefore, the saving of time would be epic – and so would the cost – with a price saving of over £250,000. You would also imagine that Rutledge would let other executives in the company hitch a ride between the head office and the main production base – so the savings would be even more dramatic.
Case Study 3: Ralph Lauren Corporation
The CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation in June 2020 is the man himself – an icon in the fashion world. It is easier to imagine that such a superstar in such an industry would fly in his personal jet. Oddly, for being such a legend, Lauren commands a mere $66.7 million a year or about $32000 an hour. Lauren frequently flies between American and the HQ in Geneva. From New York to Geneva the total flight time is 10 hours and 5 minutes – with a wait in Milan for your connection.
You would need a bigger jet for an international flight. Therefore, hiring a 16-seat Gulfstream G-IV costs about $80000 and takes only about 7 hours. Therefore, Lauren will save about $47000 by hiring that private jet.
Benefits beyond cost
There are more benefits to chartering a flight for such top executives. Although the top execs are used to working in first class, it is much more efficient to work on a private jet. There is also the chance to enjoy the privacy and confidentiality for conversations, which is a distinct worry for those looking to protect intellectual property. Most jets are outfitted with worktables, WiFi and fully equipped conference rooms. Therefore, you can bring along other professionals and carry on important work.
There is also a reduction in stress for top CEOs. To fly commercial is challenging. It requires a lot of queuing and a sense of loss of control, as you are at the whims of the airport and airline. Although the physical exhaustion of flying commercial will be significantly higher than flying private charter, the emotional exhaustion will be intense. Therefore, hiring a private jet would be seen as a commitment to the continued well being of the talent and human capital in the company.
The net-zero promise of the aviation industry has always been aspirational. However, this period of downtime during the pandemic has heightened the reality of the damage that flight is doing to the planet. The clear skies and the alpine air have brought into clear relief the impact of aviation of the environment.
The Guardian newspaper called the pledge that the aviation industry could be carbon neutral by 2050 as “just the right side of plausible.” However, more ardent critics of the sector have called this a greenwash, a promise made to make it seem like those in the industry care but with no plans to do anything about it.
The high-minded promises of February might now hold the aviation sector a hostage to fortune. People see clearly now how planes impact our world and will now be fully committed to the elaborate promises.
The promises made
At an event in London, bosses from airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers gathered to sign a card pledging themselves to the Sustainable Aviation campaign. Despite more than 100 million more people travelling by air each year before the pandemic, they were signing up to a zero-carbon target. So, not only are they expected to be able to combat current levels of carbon but that they will be able to cope with the projected 70% more flights expected by 2050.
The promises these company leaders made demonstrates a faith in the future. There is a sense that future fuels and aircraft tech will make carbon a non-issue. It might be that the tech no longer emits carbon or that there is an endless capacity for humans to offset the carbon produced by flight. The sector has five major plans that they help will help them be carbon neutral in the next 30 years.
1. Carbon offset and carbon removal technology
2. Carbon pricing and the reduction in demand for flying
3. Development of sustainable aviation fuels
4. Improved efficiency of aircraft and their engines
5. Great efficiency in operations and use of airspace.
Are the promises realistic?
One solution, to produce more efficient aircraft technology is already emerging. There are aircrafts such as the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 that emit significantly less carbon than the jets they are replacing. These aeroplanes use much lighter materials and have more efficient engines. Routes operated by Boeing should see a 30% reduction in carbon emissions within a decade. By 2030, it is thought that there will be more efficient propulsion on all routes around the globe.
Beyond 2030, hopes are being pinned on new electric planes that might revolutionise regional flights and hybrid technology that would facilitate short-haul trips.
Another potential solution is the creation of synthetic and sustainable jet fuel. The need for a different fuel is an acknowledgement that longer flights, such as those from London to Singapore, will never be achieved with an electrical engine. Therefore, sustainable fuel will be an essential component in the overall solution to carbon emissions.
The concept of sustainable fuel has been proven to be possible. However, the barrier is creating this fuel in volume. There are new schemes backed by British Airways, which hope to create jet fuel from household waste. Rolls-Royce has also been exploring the nuclear option – literally hoping to see if a small modular nuclear reactor could be used in a synthetic fuel plant and so making hydrocarbon-based fuels with fewer emissions. The hope is that innovation in the next 10 to 20 years will provide solutions that we do not yet have.
A third solution could be to improve routes, so that planes fly straighter. Managing the airspace above a country is complex and a lot of work needs to be done to make this use of space more efficient. Coordinating flights would make only a minor impact on the carbon neutrality of the aviation sector but it is significant enough to consider making the effort.
Finally, and probably the least likely to be embraced by the sector is an increase in the cost to fly. The more expensive the tickets the fewer people that could afford to fly. Low-cost airlines such as RyanAir work on bulk. They pack a plane to its fullest at the lowest price, making a profit by the number of people on board. This strategy would be destroyed by a carbon tax on tickets. Yet, as sustainable fuels are more expensive, airlines might have no choice but to raise the price of tickets. Consequently, the new fuels will have the dual impact of reducing emissions each time planes fly and reducing the demand for air travel.
Survive and meet the target
Therefore, the aviation industry faces a significant challenge. Not only do they need to survive a global recession, work out how to manage a flight and the COVID-19 guidance, coax a nervous customer back into the air – but they also have to develop the technology that will help them defend the environment. They need to push innovation. If they do not find the right technologies, they will need to find a way to counter a backlash to flying. They will need to promote the essential role the aviation sector plays in our lives, connecting the world and sustaining vital supply chains.
It is clear that the next 10 years will define the future of the sector. With so many challenges, there is a significant need for thought leaders to map out a route to success in the face of existential threats.
The private jet sector, like all aviation and most of society, has been rocked by the pandemic. The closing of national borders has disrupted the transportation industry most of all. Since March, as with the major airlines, private jet businesses have been helping with the repatriation efforts. There was much need to bring families back home from holiday and businesspeople back to base. At a time of such fear and uncertainty, this was an essential service.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the private jet companies. Private aviation could have an opportunity to step up and offer a lifeline for those who must fly but want to avoid social interaction and potential infection with the virus. But, is private flight any safer in the time of a pandemic? Here we explore what it would be like to take a private plane in the time of COVID-19.
Getting to the airport
Obviously, the private flight would not be practical if you have to travel a great distance to the airport. Fortunately, most jets flight from regional hubs, so you can quickly get a car transfer to the airport. This car journey will allow passengers to stay within the family group that they have been isolating with or with a group less than 6, which most guidance suggests should keep you relatively free from risk.
If you do travel in a car with others, it is probably best to fit yourself out with gloves and masks and make sure the interior of the vehicle is thoroughly cleaned before people get in. It is better to overdo the precautions than to regret any shortcuts.
Again, once landed, the frequency of airports available as hubs for private flights makes is reasonable to drive to your final destination. Also, you can limit your contact with others before getting to your venue. In countries where you may be expected to quarantine on arrival, you can be sure to get to the private dwelling without risking the local population.
Arriving at the airport
What probably separates private flight most from airline travel is the experience at the airport. Rather than having to pass through a busy terminal, you will instead arrive at the FBO (Fixed Based Operator) which will be separate from the main facilities. You will only need to arrive 15 minutes before your departure, as to the many hours for normal flying. The security checks are quick and efficient and easy to minimise contact with other individuals.
You will find that all the staff at the FBO will be equipped with masks and gloves and will continuously be encouraged to use sanitising gel. The interactions with staff will be kept to a minimum, and it is unlikely you will be offered refreshments from a lounge or café area. You just need to be prepared for the fact that you will need your drinks in your containers.
Onboard the plane
It goes without saying that you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of strangers on a private jet. Although many airlines are exploring how they can seat people every other seat, there will still be a lot of people breathing the same recycled air. As many aviation experts have noted, social distancing on an airline is improbable.
Obviously, on a private jet, you will remain with the same party of people. Usually, the captain and crew would meet you with a handshake in the FBO lobby. This has been eliminated in this time of the pandemic. They will come to greet you with a social distanced hello instead, as you still deserve to feel special. The crew will also wear masks and stay as distant as is possible while servicing your needs. Meals are prepared by a chef and transported to the plane with limited contact with any other people on-route.
You can make a private flight more affordable by matching up with other people who need to make the same journey. You can be confident that these people who share the trip with you have a proven negative test result for the virus. The more people on board, the more the private jet will offer some of the same threats as an airline. However, it is always within your control.
The private jet company has a responsibility to make sure that your flight is as risk-free as possible. They are likely to take this responsibility seriously, as they will want to maintain the opportunity, they have available to them.
Consequently, when a flight is completed there will be rigorous cleaning and disinfecting. The jet will be thoroughly wiped down and vacuumed before any new passengers are allowed on board. Some companies have been treating their entire fleet with an antimicrobial protective coating.
A threat becomes an opportunity
As with other forms of travel, the smaller the number of people you share the space with the lesser the risk. Why would you take the underground at this time? But you might be happy to call for a taxi. Equally, you may struggle to believe it is safe to board a mass transit aeroplane with any certainty of safety. Consequently, this time of COVID-19 offers private jet companies a distinct opportunity to become the only logical choice for flight.
It is no surprise that the world of aviation is dominated by the impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The sector has been decimated by the closing of borders and the implementation of quarantine periods for travellers. So, as we enter June, it is clear that the new normal we are living in is dominating the news for everyone in the industry. Here are some of the highlights.
The global picture today
As of June 1st, the global airlines and their suppliers are suffering a heavy toll, with financial performance and future stability under pressure. Since January 2020, the number of commercial passenger flights has dropped by a massive 77%. In the US, the amount of air travel has fallen by 96%. The total lost revenue is forecast to be $252 billion. There is no industry that could survive such a loss in market in such a short time – and that is the reality facing airlines.
With an impact in day-to-day cashflow comes a hit on the stock market. Airline shares have shed about 60% of their value since the beginning of 2020. Many airlines, including EasyJet, Air Baltic and Turkish Airlines, have had their credit ratings downgraded, having been placed on a watchlist.
With layoffs in the airline sector, comes a ripple down effect down the supply chain. Engineering and manufacturing companies that service aviation is being forced to cut thousands of jobs too.
The route to survival
The aviation sector directly employs an estimated 10.2 million people. However, connected industries account for a further 65.5 million jobs across the world. There are whole communities that will be devastated if the aviation sector isn’t helped in its survival.
At this time, Gabriel Mocho Rodriguez of the International Transports Workers Federation (ITF) has emphasised the only solution that is likely to work. Governments, employers and trade unions need to work together to pull the sector out of these challenging times. He notes that the relationship between these stakeholders has been marked by inevitable disagreements. However, he is clear that without a single focus on the future, large chunks of the industry will not survive.
The ITF has come together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to work closely with the World Health Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Labour Organisation to shape a solution. Together, these sector leaders are working to shape the best guidance the right support measure to ride out this period. They are making what Rodriguez calls “extraordinary efforts” to maintain the vital role that the sector plays. Showing themselves to be indispensable, the airlines have been central to an effort to repatriate people, deliver medicines and vital medical equipment – and supporting the medical professionals on the frontline.
The government also has a role in aviation survival. They must work with the industry leaders to restore air connectivity in the safest way possible. Operations will need to be adapted, with the introduction of air bridges and social distancing protocols, but the airlines will need a route to flying once more.
One person’s crisis is another person’s opportunity
While the large global airlines may have taken a significant hit during the Corona Virus, the private aviation operators have seized on an opportunity. Companies such as WheelsUp, VistaJet and Jet Edge view this new normal as a period where they can consolidate their position.
The CEO of WheelsUp recognises that for private jet companies to make an impact there will need to be an effort made to democratise the experience. Kenny Dichter bites that there needs to be an increase in scale for newer customer experiences, something akin to that offered by Uber. While the prices are so high, private jets will always be limited in its market share. However, Dichter has led to an unprecedented level of acquisition and so hoping to increase the opportunity for more people to fly charter. The move to consolidate companies is hoped to improve the chances that private flight will become more mainstream.
The main problem they will face is that 95% of all commercial passenger travel is serviced by 150 of 19000 US airports – with a similar ratio experienced globally. Therefore, the power of regional hubs to service such an uptick in private air travel is likely to be a challenge. Without this access to regional airports, the passenger would be reluctant to commit to a long car trip to then board the plane.
A real-life case study
Bloomberg recently focused on real-life examples of the business community switching from first-class travel to a private jet. They cite the example of Brenda Marino, a real estate investor who often takes the most lavish and elaborate European vacations from her base in New Jersey. This year she is staying domestic – and opting for a private jet instead. She cites that the discounts on offer have made the possibility of private air travel irresistible. She is opting for a journey down to Florida on her chartered flight, where her family can be sure they maintain social distancing. There is little or no need to queue for security or boarding – making it a safer way to fly.
Private jet fares are said to be running currently at 20% lower than normal – thanks mostly to the drop in business travel. However, there are many opportunities for consumers to win greater discounts if they try their luck with an agent.
Michael Holtz of Smartflyer notes that there has been almost a 500% increase in interest in private jet charter since the start of the crisis. Although a two-hour trip can cost $20k for six people, making each ticket a weighty $3000+, many still feel this is a reasonable investment in the assurances of health and safety.
Some private jet companies are being inventive, by matchmaking clients who want to fly to the same destination. With such strategies, companies can continue to make the cost manageable and therefore a more viable option for those craving air travel.
First, we are entering the world of the luxurious and elite, so we don’t hire a private jet. Oh no, we charter that jet for your private use. Already, you think you are going to have to pay large for that luxury, privacy, and convenience. Well, let’s explore the key factors that go into costing the charter of a private jet and then work out what some of those journeys might end up doing to your bank account.
The key factors
There are three factors to impact on your costs. The first is the type of jet you choose, which will obviously be directly linked to the range you can fly. Second, there is the size of the jet, which again impacts on the range and the size of the passenger list. Finally, how long you wish to fly will have an obvious effect, as the further you go the more fuel is required. So, in short, you need t to consider:
· Jet size and type
· Flight distance
· Level of demand
· Number of passengers
· Amount of luggage
· Airport Fees
· Refuelling and jet repositioning costs
You might think all this sounds like you should buy your aircraft. However, you are going to need a cool £120 million for a standard jet. You will then still need to fund the crew, the airport costs and the fuel, to name but a few. Therefore, chartering is cost-effective.
Chartering a turboprop or light jet
A turboprop or light jet include such planes as the Cessna or the Beechcraft. Such a plane will allow you to take a short domestic flight and will generally have space for up to six people. If you were hoping to make a short hop between New York and Boston in the US, a flight of 45 minutes, a turboprop such as Piper Cheyenne is perfect.
If you want to travel in a little more comfort, you might choose a light jet such as a Beechcraft King Air 200. This will cost you about £15000 for a flight from LA to Seattle. You will charter your plane by the hour. Therefore, you are looking at about £5000 per hour for your Beechcraft King Air 200. This plane gives you the necessary flight range of about 1800 miles needed for this domestic trip in the US – at a time of about 3 hours.
If you can fit six passengers on your jet, you are agreeing to a ticket price of £2500 per person for a flight between LA and Seattle.
Chartering a mid-size or super-mid-size jet
If you want to upgrade, the next level plane includes such names as the Learjet, Embraer and Gulfstream.
If you choose a mid-size jet, nine people can journey for about four hours. If you fancy a trip in a Bombardier Learjet 60 XR from San Francisco to Houston, you will pay about £30000. This means that you can share the costs of about £3300 per ticket. Alternatively, you upgrade a little to the Embraer Legacy 500 and pay about £50,000 to go from San Diego to Charlotte – a cool £5500 per person.
If take it up another level and choose the Gulfstream, you have a range of 6.5 hours. This gives you the opportunity for a decent international hop between Orlando and Lima in Peru. If you take the Gulfstream at £10000 per hour, you are looking at £65000 for your international flight or about £7000 per person.
Chartering heavy jet
We are now getting into serious aviation territory. Your planes, such as the Airbus, Boeing or Gulfstream, can carry 19 passengers with a decent amount of space to share. You will also be able to take a transatlantic flight, as the range increases significantly. Chartering a Bombardier Challenger 850, you can fly from Miami to Lisbon with 15 other people for £150,000. Your plane ticket will be a cool £10,000 for this flight.
There are ultra-luxury jets that come heavily customised to the passenger’s needs. You can choose the Airbus A319CJ for instance, which is the most expensive private charter option. It will cost you a weighty £180,000 to carry 19 people from New York to London in eight hours. This is about £9500 per passenger but for this, you get an office, entertainment system, bedroom, and a bathroom.
It is possible to go for 14 hours in a private jet. Choosing a Gulfstream G550 allows you to fly from Washington DC to Tokyo for £16000 per hour. Therefore, this long-haul flight will cost you £224,000 for 19 people. However, you will travel in luxury, with a genuine option to sleep. Therefore, if you are a high-powered businessperson, whose time is money, this could offer a value option for your trip to Japan.
It is likely that a lot of these figures are mind-blowing. Even if you could gather 18 of your best friends together to share your jet, you will still pay a lot for your ticket. However, there are multiple schemes around the world that are designed to help people experience private charter flights. For instance, there a start-up called Blackbird that allows you to book a flight on a scheduled flight with a small number of others, hitch a ride of a privately hire jet that has spare seats – as well as opt for a private charter of your own for a minimum of $1000. Costs are kept down by the company by using regional airports with lower landing costs.
Another clever idea is the air taxi run by Linear Air. You can call for a flight like you would an uber and the seats will be allocated to you where there might be spare seats. Therefore, it is possible for you to dream about a private jet flight – and with the current pandemic, it could be your only option for safe travel in the near future.