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Lessons the Aviation Industry Learned From the Covid-19 Pandemic

  • by: Owen Spalding
  • On: 17, Jul 2023
3 min read

While every industry suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, aviation was one of the worst hit, and took a long time to recover.

It wasn’t just airlines that struggled: airports, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and supply chain businesses worldwide felt the dramatic impact of the pandemic.

The industry is, by its very nature, global, meaning it was one of the main vectors that allowed Covid to spread around the world. Many countries shut down their airports immediately, while others allowed flights to operate at a fraction of what they usually would. By mid-April of 2020, international air traffic in Europe was down by 95% from what it was the previous year. In 2020, industry revenues totaled $328 billion, just 40% of what was made in 2019.

This was necessary to combat the spread of the virus, but brutally damaged the aviation industry. There are many lessons the industry can learn from how the pandemic unfolded which should be a priority to act on, as they can help the industry become more resilient to sudden disruption of any kind in the future.

Lessons the aviation industry should learn from the pandemic

Flexibility is vital

Every business and industry had to suddenly pivot to new models of working almost immediately when lockdown began. For many, this meant changing to a 100% digital offering, regardless of whether this suited their business.

The aviation industry had to invent creative new ways of providing value for customers, while also abiding by new rules, regulations, and laws.

Communication and collaboration between airlines and governments

Due to government loans or bailouts, it’s likely that airlines will have more interaction with governments. While this may bring additional scrutiny, it is also an opportunity for industry leaders to develop better relationships with governments.

As an example of this, the ICAO introduced the Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), which provides guidance to both governments and industry operators to support the aviation industry and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Build stronger supply chains

There was widespread disruption across supply chains of virtually every kind during the pandemic. Aviation was no different, and this issue could pose a problem again if not addressed.

The industry as a whole needs to be able to source materials and parts quickly and easily, and we’ve seen what happens when this can’t happen. Industry leaders must not rely on a single supplier, and build a wide and robust network that can allow them to source whatever they need.

Sustainable fuel should be a priority

There has been disruption in the availability of oil and fuel for some time, but the pandemic put more pressure on supply, making it difficult to get regular, dependable fuel.

If the aviation industry were able to fully transition to sustainable fuel, it would provide far more security, with fuel readily available and easy to source and supply wherever it is needed.

Digital experiences are more important than ever

Lastly, the pandemic brought into focus just how vital digital experiences are for aviation customers.

Creating leading digital experiences and apps isn’t cheap, so airlines need to accept a certain level of investment. Before the pandemic, the average annual airline spend on IT and digital technology was low, certainly compared to the cost of maintaining the fleet.

But now, it’s absolutely necessary for every airline to have a digital offering, and to have staff able to use digital tools to provide a seamless experience for customers. Check-in and boarding should be simple, and able to do from your phone. Certain airlines are leading the way for this, with dedicated apps that allow customers to earn points, manage their bookings, and have more control over their travel experience.

Analytics are similarly important, allowing for enhanced, intelligent decision making. As more airports make the transition to becoming smart buildings, they’ll be able to better understand the needs of their customers.

If the aviation industry at large learns the lessons from navigating the challenges of the pandemic, it will be stronger, more resilient, and in a better position to meet the changing needs of customers, allowing the industry to thrive, even in uncertain times.


Read more about challenges airports faced over the last year, or learn how Covid changed the job market.

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