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.