EDITORIAL: Waiting To Inhale

Credit: US NOAA

A year ago, the aviation industry took a deep breath and went into survival mode. A year on, many are still waiting to come up for air.  

“It’s like somebody who's swimming underwater and they expect to have to hold their breath for 30 seconds,” Altair Advisory managing director Patrick Edmond said. “All of a sudden you've got a memo while swimming underwater and it says, ‘Sorry, you've got to hold your breath for twice as long.’”

In the UK, the visibility is even worse than this. There was no metaphorical follow-up memo. Instead, a government task force is still writing it—by the time they provide any clarity, the benefit will have been lost.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary hit the nail on the head: “We do not need a task force; we just need action.”

The UK government was scheduled to deliver a restart plan in autumn 2020. As of March 2021, there is still no “memo.”

Instead, the next update is scheduled for April 12, but this may also be delayed—leaving UK airlines with no information about whether international travel will resume from May 17.

Meanwhile, the UK’s medium-to-long-term aviation recovery plan has been pushed back to “no later than November 2021.”

“Failure to provide clarity has consequences,” the UK House of Commons Transport Committee warned the UK government in their interim report, published March 11.

To form a long-term strategy—or even a short-term strategy for summer 2021—airlines need at least a basic idea of what to expect, but they are not being kept informed.

How long can the industry wait to take its next breath? A year is a long time to be swimming in the dark.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.