Air traffic has historically been vulnerable to external factors, losing ground, for example, after the 2008 recession and the 2003 SARS epidemic, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far more extreme, international aviation specialists said today during a Flight Safety Foundation webinar.
“This is different,” said Stephen Creamer, director of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Navigation Bureau. “This is not business as usual, and this is not the same recovery cycle” that has marked previous disruptions of flight schedules.
The webinar, moderated by FSF President and CEO Dr. Hassan Shahidi, was the second in a series to be presented by the Foundation. The next session, featuring aeromedical specialists, will be held at 3:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 p.m. UTC) April 15.
Gilberto Lopez Meyer, senior vice president for safety and flight operations with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said during today’s webinar that his organization is predicting that the pandemic will endanger 25 million jobs associated with the airline industry worldwide, including not only jobs with airlines but also those in other sectors of the travel and tourism industries.
David Gamper, director, safety, technical and legal affairs for the Airports Council International (ACI), said that airports around the world stand to lose $76 billion in revenues because of the pandemic, which “represents an existential threat for the industry as a whole.”
Michelle Bishop, director, programmes for the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), said that global flight movements and flight hours plunged in March and early April from a daily average of about 100,000 flights to about 32,000 flights on April 4. CANSO data also show that daily flight hours were off 78 percent in early April from global averages recorded in January.
They agreed that the priority industry-wide is to protect the health of employees and passengers by following guidelines for social distancing and cleaning. CANSO also aims to keep routes open, despite the decrease in traffic.
Recovery, when it comes, will involve coordinating the gradual resumption of routes and reopening of facilities, Gamper said.
Lopez Meyer added that the end result probably will be a slow return to normal traffic, coupled with efforts to change “negative perceptions of travel” in the pandemic’s aftermath.