Headwinds

On the 3rd of May installment of these chronicles, I explained that more headwinds expect civil aviation in the next months. We all know that few aircrafts are flying today and although past pandemics data suggest that the industry will rebound, it is hard to anticipate how long it will take.
Today I read some interesting studies published by International Air Transport Association (IATA), claiming that aircraft passengers are less likely to be infected by Coronavirus than passengers using other transportation such as trains or buses. This claim is supported by a survey completed by IATA on affiliate airlines and explained with the following combination of passenger behavior and inherent characteristics of air transportation.

  • Face to face interaction on a plane are limited
  • Seat backs provide a physical barrier between rows
  • Little mixing when sitting still
  • People are not traveling when unwell and will avoid touch contact. Moreover, passengers will practice cough etiquette and hand hygiene
  • On a plane, high airflow rates avoid stagnant air, there is minimal fore-aft airflow and air supply is highly filtered

IATA represents the interests of airlines, so I would take the above with a pinch of salt. We know little about Coronavirus and I feel that more studies are needed to confirm that air transportation is relatively safe.

IATA also started calculating the impact of social distancing measures that may be enforced by governments on the airline business on airline balance IATA also calculated the impact of travel-related social distancing policies on airline balance sheets. The below charts illustrate how, if middle seats are kept free, most airlines would not break even and steep increases on air ticket prices are to be expected.

While it is good to project ourselves into the future and start imagining a civil aviation rebound, we have to be mindful that many things will have to happen before air traffic can be kick-started again. For a plane to take off in It is good to project ourselves into the future and start imagining a civil aviation rebound, but we have to be aware that many things will have to happen before air traffic can be kick-started again. For a plane to take off in city A and land in city B completing an international flight, both countries will have to lift border restrictions. When that happens, crossed quarantines will dissuade many to jump on a plane even if the plane is available.

Headwinds are still blowing strong and clearing up the sky.


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