The Covid‑19 pandemic has severely affected the entire aviation sector, with air traffic down by more than two-thirds compared with 2019 levels. The consultancy McKinsey estimated that air traffic won’t return to 2019 levels before 2024. After all, who will be the winners and the losers in the post Covid-19?
1. Environment says “thank you”
The answer is not clear and analyses vary. However, despite the long‑lasting drop in air traffic threatening the economic viability of companies, jobs and working conditions, it’s doubtless that the environment has been among the greatest winners of the aviation sector’s near-collapse. Even if temporarily.
Because of Covid-19, the EU’s environmental agency has reported an unparalleled reduction in GHG emissions in the EU, in 2020, compared to 2019. Similarly, a scientific publication from Science Direct published lessons to retain from the Covid-19 pandemic, in light of the impact of air transport on the environment.
2. Commercial winners
At global level, from a commercial viewpoint, industry experts have predicted that winners will be airlines with strong domestic business. According to the experts, these airlines will be capable to offset the financial impact on the suspension of international services, the Travel Weekly reported.
A concrete example is the Kazakhstan’s Air Astana Group which has returned to profit in the first half of 2021.
Strong market growth and a preference for air travel over long rail journeys have transformed Kazakhstan into the world’s fastest growing domestic marketPeter Foster, President & CEO Kazakhstan’s Air Astana Group
Foster further specified that the two branches of Kazakhstan’s Air Astana Group — Air Astana and LCC FlyArystan — have both performed well on domestic routes.
In India, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia expressed optimism about the future of aviation in the country, saying the sector is “improving”.
“By 2024, we have to develop 100 airports in the country to create 1,000 air routes. Out of these 100, 61 airports are already connected. A total of 360 air routes have been started which was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream under the UDAN (regional airport development) scheme,” he said.
3. Long-haul and business travel to suffer
According to industry experts, losers will be airlines that rely on long-haul routes and business travel, the latter expected to lag leisure travel once Covid-19 is overcome.
On Asia-Pacific carrier, the New-York based company Bernstein Research said the biggest issues were sluggish cross-border traffic and low vaccination penetration in many countries.
Recent data from New Airports Council International (ACI) world data has shown that the impact of the Covid-19 on aviation is forecast to remove an additional five billion passengers by the end of 2021, compared to the pre-Covid-19 forecast.
ACI World has predicted that global traffic may take up to two decades to return to previously projected levels.
4. Air passengers hit hard
Finally, the unpredictability caused by Covid-19 stripped air passengers from basic rights such as financial compensations or even adequate and timely information about their rights after cancelled flights.
“Optional insurance isn’t a solution to protect consumers against airline insolvency. EU law provides solid consumer rights that need to be respected even in case of bankruptcy and consumers shouldn’t be asked to pay for that protection,” defended Augustin Reyes from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
A recent public hearing at the European Parliament discussed measures to improve passenger rights during Covid-19. The Parliament defends that the recovery of the aviation sector will require both regulatory support at EU level and the provision of significant public and private financial assistance to safeguard business and jobs.
“Our members across Europe have been inundated with thousands of consumer complaints about airlines,” said Reyes.
Parliament also considers it ”essential” to safeguard competition in the sector to guarantee consumers have access to affordable travel and to ensure a level playing field for air carriers and workers.