Saturday, May 09, 2020

Re-Imagining Air Travel

It's a grim time for airlines, a grim time for the entire aviation industry.

It's pretty clear that airlines played a significant role in the global spread of the Covid-19 virus. There was a time when it was said that pandemics spread at the speed of sail. Now such contagions travel at close to 560 miles per hour on routes that reach every corner of the world.

I watched a video last week by an airline pilot discussing what social distancing would look like on a modern jetliner. Unless passengers were willing to pay to be jammed into hazmat suits, social distancing would cut passenger loads to about 30 percent. Airlines need closer to 75 percent to break even.

More bad news. Quarantine. We didn't go through a month or two of isolation, social distancing, working from home and doing without our pubs and restaurants and shops so that people could freely come in via our airports and re-ignite our problems.

Tomorrow the British government is expected to announce a 14-day quarantine for airport arrivals whether visitors or returning Brits.
Boris Johnson is set to address the nation and present his roadmap out of the lockdown, and will announce the introduction of quarantine measures for people who arrive at airports, ports and Eurostar railway stations, including for Britons returning from abroad. 
People will be asked to provide the address at which they will self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival by filling out a digital form, according to a report in the Times.
Airlines UK said it had been told by government officials that the plan would be in place by the end of the month or early June. 
A spokesman for the trade body said: “We will be asking for assurances that this decision has been led by the science and that government has a credible exit plan, with weekly reviews to ensure the restrictions are working and still required.”
Will there be a return to 'normal' for the world's airlines? Can governments afford to keep airlines on life support until this pandemic is no more? What about Airbus and already-troubled Boeing?


Toby said...

Governments should stop subsidizing lost causes. Air travel is a lost cause for the next several years.

Not only should we keep the border with the US closed to casual crossing but we should also close the border with Alberta. Here in the Okanagan our exposure to Covid-19 is from crews working in Alberta's tar sands camps. We are seeing lots of Alberta license plates and lots of RVs set up in makeshift camp grounds.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised when I heard this yesterday, because I had assumed that the UK would have done this already, as we have done in Canada. Hell, beyond that and against the charter concerning mobility rights concerning jobs, Trudeau has let provincial premiers close their jurisdictions off to the province(s) next door.

Hell, if some Maritimer Canuck returns to Canada from overseas and lands in Montreal (no international flights to anywhere in the Atlantic region) it could take over a month to get to Halifax. First there's the Canada 14 day quarantine with plan. There's no train anymore, so if one rented a car, there'd be 14 day isolation in New Brunswick (the most hardline border) if they were allowed in at all, then the same rigamarole at the NS border. I've read of no "co-operation" between any province that allows the bureaucracy and stolid cops to exercise reasonable judgement. It's straight to "jail".

I suppose one could get a plane to Halifax from Montreal and only go through two 14 day isolation periods instead of three. Whoopee. I'm getting the feeling that outside of Quebec (Montreal) and Ontario (Toronto) which are CV-19 hotspots, some people in power are making a giant meal out of all this.

On the one hand, you have the dopes, Lord Conrad Black and Transcendentalist J Todd Ring stand out for me at opposite ends of the political dolt spectrum, who say it isn't worse than flu based on stats. Of course it isn't! That's what the lockdown has accomplished, you berks. If we did this every year, about NOBODY would catch and die of flu complications. I'd bet not a soul has caught the regular flu since mid-March. So CV-19 is real enough all right.

On the other hand, we have provincial Chief Medical Officers who seem to want 100% assurances that CV-19 has receded into the background before they'll let family hug again. In my little group of friends and family extending from Calgary and all around NS, none of us personally know anyone who's had the plague. Perhaps the good docs could use a bit of empathetic human logic as we move away from lockdown. People first, forget about business. Hospitals are empty and ER docs are twiddling their thumbs. I could go on, as one of my brothers is a doc himself and highly opinionated, but I'll leave it there for now.

As for the airlines, I rally couldn't give a shit. They expanded cheap flights and millions of people travelling to cheap drunken vacations for decades with zero thought about the environment. The floating gin palaces and Norwalk virus incubators known as cruise ships were always a blight on any seascape -- good riddance.


The Disaffected Lib said...

It's a thorny problem, Toby. If we let airlines die, the lot of them, how could that industry ever come back? What of the inventory of jetliners already in service and those on order? Should Europe lose Airbus or America sacrifice Boeing? Do we hand that sector to China also?

As for closing borders, that attracts the old debate about protectionism. What I've noticed in these conversations is that 'protectionism' is taken in the pre-climate breakdown/pre-pandemic sense. Those who argue against it most loudly imagine we're still in the world as it existed two decades ago.

The world has changed - markedly and, in some ways, irreversibly. Neoliberal globalism has lost much of its utility today. Supply chains are breaking. The stability that global free trade rests on is faltering. Growth seems to take one of two forms - authoritarian, illiberal democracies or collapsing failed states.

The Disaffected Lib said...

The airlines have been living high on a cheap tourism bacchanal, BM. I stopped flying years ago when the choices became First Class or Cattle Class. First Class was too costly and Cattle Class was an insult to passenger dignity. Screw it.

Were you in Canada back in the days of Ward Air? Meal service on china plates and real silverware. That was air travel.

Trailblazer said...

Some years ago my wife, daughter and I caught a nasty dose of flu flying back from the UK.
You do not forget flu!
Air travel , like ocean cruises , will never recover.
People are realising that travel equals transmission of viruses and will never trust mass travel again.
To survive the aircraft manufacturers , Airbus and Boeing will have to re invent themselves .
Such is the end of empires be they political or manufacturers.
Globalism has been exposed to be efficient but fragile, cost saving but eventually ruinous.


I find it amazing that we put so much stock in economies that are built on so little of value!

As the virus lingers on , i think we are coming to the realisation that our 'economy' was built on nothing of real value.