What does the future hold for the airline industry?

Jon Lawson

Cranfield University has led a project to gauge the mood of the airline industry in the face of the pandemic. 

The project examined flight, air freight and included in-depth interviews with senior aviation industry executives. 

Dr Pere Suau-Sanchez, Senior Lecturer in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University, explains: “Along with other sectors of the economy, air traffic is vulnerable to external factors, such as oil crises, natural disasters, armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, economic recessions and disease outbreaks. The findings of this paper represent an early assessment that can help the aviation industry and other related industries like tourism in the preparation for the recovery period. We focused on identifying aspects that can structurally redefine the aviation industry in the medium and long term for both passenger and cargo traffic, particularly around supply and demand, traffic resilience, passenger behaviour, health regulations and business ethics. Understanding these structural elements in an integrated way can provide more confidence in efforts to predict the future context. As the views of senior stakeholders might change as the crisis evolves, a record of their early assessments also represents a valuable reference for future analysis.”

Unsurprisingly, the outcome for the industry looks like it will shrink and become more consolidated. Differences in state aid across countries could also play a significant role, even from the time around the middle of March when traffic dropped abruptly.

Those polled were anxious about the business sector due to the cancellation of meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions, and the digital transformation and cloud apps offering better solutions for teleworking than the traditional videoconference.
In the leisure sector, fear and health concerns were identified as major issues, more so than for the business traveller.

However there are some reasons to be cheerful, as areas such as supply chain improvement and more responsible consumption could be seen on the horizon. 


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