EDITORIAL: Applaud those in the airline industry who keep us connected

In what seems like almost an overnight transition, the global air transport industry outlook has plummeted from positive to dire.

In December, IATA forecast that 2020 would be the 11th consecutive profitable year for airlines as a collective and that the industry would post a 4% increase in revenue to $872 billion. Within three months, that picture has changed drastically and even the largest airlines with the strongest cash balances are in survival mode.

The COVID-19 pandemic will not only wipe out airline profitability, it will take with it the many airlines that were operating on the financial margins before the virus struck.

Many governments have been woefully lacking in their leadership for aviation in this disaster. In particular, the US Trump administration has thrown chaos on top of crisis, issuing travel bans without consulting and coordinating with those countries affected, giving incorrect information about who and what was allowed to fly, and closing most of its international gateway airports to incoming overseas flights. The apparent lack of preparedness by US Customs and Border Protection to deal with the sudden changes led to massive bottlenecks and crowding at major US airports of people arriving from virus-struck countries—a reckless and potentially deadly situation that was completely avoidable.

What must not be forgotten is the many in this industry who are displaying great professionalism and leadership. In particular, those airline and airport workers on the front lines who continue to do their duty, allowing people to get home or where they need to go while travel is still permitted. Flight attendants, pilots, check-in desk personnel, airport and airline cleaners share the same concerns as the traveling public. They are also worried about future job security. They are on the front lines of this human crisis. They will be needed more than ever when the world is ready to re-connect.

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Karen Walker

Karen Walker is Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief and Aviation Week Network Group Air Transport Editor-in-Chief. She joined ATW in 2011 and oversees the editorial content and direction of ATW, Routes and Aviation Week Group air transport content.