Airports are significant to the economic progress of cities, countries, and regions. Airports provide services to airlines, move passengers, and transport cargos; thus, their financial contribution is highly significant. The movements of people, properties affect governments, consumers, and industries in a positive way. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has hit airports hard. These effects are still live and can affect world economies deeply. Because of that aviation industry looking for a solution and rapidly transforming itself.
How COVID-19 affect our life?
With the occurrence of the Coronavirus into our lives, our daily activities have been affected in many ways. Examples of these changing behaviours are the presence of fewer people in public areas to reduce contact, the use of a face mask to reduce the possibility of contamination, and to stay at home except in urgent situations. Of course, the decrease in mobility, which is one of the experts’ advice, has also restricted people’s travel to reduce contamination. We have even seen countries close their borders for a certain period in order to control the Coronavirus. So how was airline transportation affected by this situation?
In this blog post, we will explain the changing points and the measures taken in airline transportation during the post-COVID-19 period, after covering step by step how COVID-19 affects airline traffic.
COVID-19 impact on the Air Traffic
In the beginning, airline companies underestimate the COVID-19 pandemic. They only announced cuts, which also include a reduction of flights to Italy, China, Iran -the countries that are profoundly affected by COVID-19. After all, it is showing that airlines’ flight plans are hit by more than just a few cancellations on routes to some countries. It is observed that ensuing cuts to short- and medium-range timetables reduced airline companies’ revenues by up to a quarter maybe a year. Many airlines had terrible days due to the massive drop in passenger quantity. Some of them reduce their plane number, some of them discharge some employees.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger demand in May (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs), dropped 91.3% compared to May 2019.
On the other side, this decrease has impacts on the community and the people working in various sectors and service providers at the airport. Many airport retailers and airlines ask their personnel to take unpaid leave during this troubling time.
The sharp decline in flight demand resulted in falling revenues, and this situation requires airport management to implement adapted operational concepts and while reducing costs in the short term. Measures range from the adaptive deployment of personnel and the redesigning of processes in order to use airport infrastructure for different purposes and lead to significant deviations from normal operations.
Besides, it is critical to keep passengers and staff healthy and prepare for the coming gradual increase in flight operations after life turning to normal. Maintaining social distancing, staff protection measures and new processes have a massive impact on passenger flow, system capacity, transfer times and the travel duration.
These are the impacts of COVID 19 outbreak on the aviation industry and the civil economy depended on the aviation industry.
New Normal for Aviation
With the entry into the new normal, it was seen that the borders were gradually opened. Although the European Union’s opening of the borders within itself and to some countries on 15 June relieved the aviation industry a bit, the numbers still did not return to the old levels. When the flight statistics examine, European carriers saw demand topple 96.7% in June versus a year ago, compared to a 98.7% decline in May.
- Global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024.
- It is expected that the recovery in short-haul travel is going to be faster than recovery in long-distance travel. As a result, passenger numbers will recover faster than traffic measured in RPKs.
- Recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels will also slide by a year from 2022 to 2023.
- For 2020, global passenger numbers are expected to decline by 55% compared to 2019.
As can be seen in the graph, since there are two different trends as pessimistic and optimistic estimations, the estimates contain uncertainty.
The more pessimistic recovery approach is based on recent trends:
- Slow virus containment in the US and developing economies: Despite developed economies’ success against the spread of Coronavirus, the contamination in the US is continuing. Furthermore, there is little sign of virus containment in many significant emerging economies, which, in combination with the US, represent around 40% of global air travel markets. Continuing border closure, particularly to international travel, is a significant barrier to recovery.
- Reduced corporate travel: Companies continue to be under financial pressure even as the economy improves, so corporate travel budgets are expected to be decreased. In addition, video conferencing is becoming more common for in-person meetings; thus, the business travel industry is likely to effect from this.
- Weak consumer confidence: Change in customer behaviours, especially for travelling, it seems to affect the aviation industry. Visiting friends and relatives and leisure travel are considered unnecessary due to health issues and the risk of catching COVID-19. 55% of respondents to IATA’s June passenger survey don’t plan to travel in 2020.
It looks like 2020 is the worst year in aviation history, and airlines are in survival mode.
Aviation measures in response to COVID-19
Within EU borders, a different set of challenges is emerging. Since the gradual re-opening of intra-EU borders for non-essential travel on 15 June, virtually every country in Union is now issuing its passenger health questionnaire. Some questionnaires come with paper and pen; others work via a QR code. Besides the fact that a paperwork requirement increases the risk of virus transmission, in many cases, airlines are expected to print these forms themselves!
Even so, these procedures are different; the ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organization Council) has approved Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, known as Takeoff. This is an authoritative and comprehensive framework of risk-based temporary measures for air transport operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
These guidelines are so important even Italy threatens to ban Ryanair over alleged Covid-19 guideline violations.
Takeoff proposes a phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures. In line with recommendations and guidance from public health authorities, these will mitigate the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus during the travel process.
When “Takeoff” examined on the passenger side, it has brought some challenges and additional requirements as well, such as;
- Health certificate check, either as a new process or integrated into an existing service.
- Entrance control to limit the number of meters and greeters.
- New challenges for allocation due to blocked resources.
- Reduction of holding capacity in gate lounges.
- Limitations in the lavatory and praying rooms.
- Closing of retail areas and VIP lounges
- Reduction of handling capacity/throughput per checkpoint.
- Higher load on seating areas in the gate hold room.
- Limitation of drop-off positions at security control decreases throughput.
- Delayed deboarding.
- Allow head time for luggage.
- Limitation of passengers on airport buses.
- Delayed boarding.
- Strict enforcement of boarding by zones.
- Limitation of passengers in boarding bridges.
- Social distancing in queues leads to lower holding capacity.
- Reconfiguration of queuing areas to keep the lateral distance.
- Reduced allocation of nearby gates at the same time.
- Preference of gates close to handling facilities.
- Breaking with traditional allocation rules as airlines’ flight schedules require a very different amount of processors nowadays.
- Reorganization changes the passenger load on areas, entries, transportation elements etc.
If the measures are summarized:
1.Measures to reduce risk of onboard transmission:
- Mandatory masks for crew and face-coverings for passengers.
- Simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers.
- Limiting movement within the cabin during the flight.
- More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning.
- Filtering air inside the plane in every 3 minutes with a Hepa filter. ( It gives fresh air into the aircraft)
- Repeatedly and detailed cleaning and disinfection of seat, bucket belts and toilets.
2.Measures to reduce the risk of departure:
- Thermal imaging technology, or temperature screening, for passengers and crew at the entrance.
- Self-service check-in and more hands-free, or automated, processes.
- Self bag drop encouraged.
- Contactless and orderly boarding process.
3.Measures to reduce the risk of arrival:
- Orderly deplaning to minimize proximity and interactions.
- Physical distancing in queues, and contactless immigration process. Health monitoring as per local regulations. Transit process should respect measures from the departure airport.
- Physical distancing in baggage reclaim and customs.
How can in-store analytics help to deal with New Normal?
Meanwhile, many measures are taken to keep passengers, and staff healthy, the applying of these procedures has become a problem. Practising these measures are essential for airports and airlines because these procedures ensure business continuity also there are massive penalties if there is a violation of rules.
So how can the aviation industry be confident to apply these measures %100?
Technology comes into play at that point. Especially for footfall counting, limitations of passenger numbers in specific areas, maintaining social distancing in queue in-store analytics can give priceless benefits.
Also, with in-store analytics, you can analyze airports, predict waiting times and discover the most popular places in the airport. By these analyzes, you can contribute to marketing and visual design operations. You can prepare strategies based on data from airport traffic.
For more benefits of in-store analytics and to learn what benefits in-store analytics give to deal with COVID-19 wait for “Aviation Analytics part 2: – Post Covid-19 period: How in-store analytics can help to deal with COVID-19?”
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Stronger Aviation Industry
As a result of the travel bans and flight cancellations in response to the outbreak, we are seeing a severe drop in passenger traffic as many countries are decreasing air connectivity. In many respects, this hiatus in mobility presents a window of opportunity for airports to take stock, reassess their strategies and adapt to new ways of working. Learning from this challenging situation will no doubt make the airport community more durable, more united and better equipped for future success.
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