As Covid-19 has spread to nearly every region of the world over the past six months, the aviation industry has faced a reckoning unlike anything in its past. While 9/11 permanently transformed how we fly, we’re still coming to understand what a post-Covid-19 world looks like for our industry.
How Airlines Have Been Impacted by Covid-19
According to a recent International Air Transport Association survey, nearly two-thirds of passengers report that they will be less likely to travel in the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, even after it’s under control. More than 80 percent won’t travel by plane at all until the virus is contained, presumably even with health and safety measures implemented.
Because of this stark and severe drop off in business and leisure travel, airlines are dramatically cutting their revenue estimates, and they are not expecting a return to 2019 levels of travel until after 2023.
Between March 1 and July 20, United States based Compass Airlines, Miami Air International, RavnAir Group, and Trans States Airlines have faced bankruptcies or shutdowns, and the number of airlines around the world who have had to restructure or cease operating entirely is growing.
United Airlines recently announced that they will fly only 35 percent as many flights in August 2020 as they did in August of 2019.
Delta Airlines reported a more than $5 billion loss in Q2, and while flight bookings were up after a historic low in April, they are sliding again as the Coronavirus resurges across the United States.
How Pilots Have Been Impacted by Covid-19
Not surprisingly, tens of thousands of commercial pilots are at risk of being furloughed in the near future, as airlines cut revenue estimates and respond to the steep decrease in demand for business and leisure travel.
Delta has proposed cutting pilot pay by 15% in order to avoid furloughs, and other airlines have already warned that layoffs are imminent.
Federal aid to the airline industry requires that the airlines neither lay off nor reduce the salaries for their workers until October 1, but as predictions for summer revenue continue to decline, the airlines are looking to cut costs dramatically to survive.
While commercial pilots face furloughs and pay cuts in the immediate future, pilots who fly cargo for companies like UPS and FedEx are busier than ever. Likewise, opportunities to pilot for private flights to rural areas and for high net-worth individuals may be increasing as a result of reductions in flights to low-traffic airports, fewer people wanting to travel in packed airplanes, and more people willing to spring for private flights.
What the Future Looks Like for Pilots in Training
In the immediate future, pilots in training may find that in-person classes and simulations are canceled. However, many flight schools, like Gleim Aviation, have expanded their free online offerings during this time. Also, supplementing your pilot training with aviation apps like PlaneEnglish supports your long-term goals and allows you to learn when and where it’s convenient—and safe—for you.
Despite the current outlook, the aviation industry and flight schools are optimistic about the future. The Academy of Aviation writes that the pre-pandemic realities that made pilot training appealing will still be true when the pandemic passes, and abandoning your flight school plans may not be the wisest decision.
Among their reasons for optimism: a large number of pilots are expected to retire in the next two years; there will eventually be a vaccine or cure for Covid-19; people will always need to travel for business, leisure, and health; and the aviation industry will adapt to a changed world, just as it always has.