Allow Domestic Flights to Resume Operations or Risk Losing The Airlines to Bankruptcy: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented and untold hardships the world over.
Various sectors have been hard hit, from oil, industries, education, transportation and even tourism. As some of these sectors have been completely shut down some have never been busier.
For the first time, in my opinion, the health sector in Nigeria and all over the world for that matter has suddenly become the most important after agriculture. Believe it or not, the world has suddenly been forced to halt!. A new wave of thinking, of doing things and a whole new perspective.
How come we did not see this coming. There are no predictions or statistics that pointed out the sudden economic downturn. All our numbers have failed us. We that couldn’t make decisions without analysing data are suddenly confused. The simplest decisions have suddenly become hard to make.
According to Aviationbenefits, “Air transport supports 6.2 million jobs and $55.8 billion in African economic activity and $2.7 trillion in world economic activity.”
There was a 4.2% annual growth in global air passenger traffic according to IATA in its October 2018 report and a further prediction of a “geographical reshuffling of world air traffic to the East”.
By April 2020, airlines world over have recorded from 70-100% decline in passenger traffic due Lockdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic!. The numbers are incomparable!
I can tell you this though that the aviation sector has had it quite terrible. It’s like the gods of the skies have fallen. Giant airlines have thrown in the towel, and those previously hanging by the thread have suddenly quit. Take a look at the magnificent Boeing variants, built with precision, designed to perfection, made to fly suddenly lying hopeless all around the world.
How about the prestigious Airbuses, the sleek jets, and cool propellers? Airbus has furloughed 3,200 of its workforce as they cried of “bleeding cash “. These ladies, who were built to fly are all parked!
The airlines are beginning to lay off their staff, default on lease payments and surprisingly cut off as much as 80% off salary while sending off 90% on compulsory vacation!. It’s darkest before dawn.
British Airways, BA is laying off 12,000 of its 42,000 workers. IAG, owners of Spanish airline Iberia and Ireland’s Aer Lingus and the parent company of BA, said it needed to “impose a restructuring and redundancy programme” until passengers demands for air travel increases to previous years levels. This they predicted might take a few more years.
As airlines in every single continent battles for survival, the sad news keep pouring in. EasyJet a Swish owned low-cost airline has laid off its 4,000 UK-based cabin crew for two months.
The Virgin Atlantic owner, Sir Richard Branson is begging for a £500m loan to bail out his airline. Qantas, Air Canada, Norwegian airlines have put their staff on furlough. The struggling South African Airways, SAA has thrown in the towel.
Nigerian airlines have had it quite bad and the worst is yet to come. Max Air stated it would not pay staff during lockdown while Arik Air sent 90% of its staff on compulsory leave. While the statistics is disheartening, let’s attempt to see amidst our tears. First of all, even with government bailout, how many airlines would survive.
There are monthly lease payments and staff salaries. How much can each government afford to spend to save the airlines from total bankruptcy? If international airlines have been collapsing and seeking for bailout funds from their ‘rich’ government, how do you think the African Airlines would survive if we do not do something drastic now.
My advice is that government allows domestic airlines to resume flights, even if for a few hours a day until normalcy returns gradually to the world due COVID -19. But first, reduce the spread of COVID-19 through airline transport by completely eliminating the plastic trays used for X-rays at airport check in. Several reports have indicated that is the one thing touched by passengers and tests have shown it harbours coronavirus, rhino virus and other germs.
Since government cannot afford to bail out all airlines, it is advisable to encourage airlines to consider cargo as that has helped a few international airlines such as Cathay Pacific to stay afloat.
Also, domestic airlines should be allowed to resume flight operations even if for a few hours a day, that’s assuming the government makes the simple but hard decision of doing away with the screening trays and ensuring that disposable plastic used instead.
I strongly recommend that the government should allow domestic flights to resume operations as that’s the only way to save our domestic airlines from complete annihilation.
Also, strict adherence to personal hygiene, hand washing and sanitising should be adhered to at the airports. Wearing of nose masks should be mandatory. With these in place, and the trays done away with, the spread of COVID-19 can be nipped in the bud.
What the airlines need to do now is call on their Flight Dispatchers/ Aircraft Dispatchers also known as Ground Pilots who work in their Operations Control Centres. They are trained to bring you out of worst case scenarios.
They are trained to ensure an airline stays economically viable, all flights are safe and the law is not compromised. You need them more than ever now. This Lockdown will be over eventually. Some airlines would cease to exist, others would make unthinkable changes and new ones would emerge.
Suddenly, these magnificent ladies are going to take to the skies, riding on the wings of Flight Dispatchers.
Victoria Jumoke Adegbe
CEO Insel Networks
FAA, NCAA licensed Flight Dispatcher and Ground Instructor
Email:- [email protected]
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