Aviation Index 2020

An expert’s view on Aviation going forward                

Each year the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the provider of airspace air traffic control and airport tower services to most of the major airports in the UK, provides a snapshot in time of public attitudes to aviation in the UK. 

This year’s report was undertaken in March, just before the national lockdown commenced to combat Covid-19. The research was undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of NATS.

The first section reports a sea change in public attitudes about aviation and the environment. It clearly shows that public opinion on increasing airport capacity has reversed markedly since the 2018 survey. The survey reveals that the public believes that governments and industry itself should clean up aviation, as well as the need to change our own travel habits. A telling statement in the survey says that with traffic levels now at record lows, the industry has a unique opportunity to “build back better”; to reduce emissions and noise; and to put what is best for the planet first.  

Here is a link to the full report https://www.nats.aero/news/aviation-index-2020/

We then have a press release from the airport and airline industries, Airports Council International (ACI), and International Air Transport Association (IATA), asking for a system where the world’s taxpayers should foot the bill for COVID testing of passengers, so that they can get back to their business as usual as soon as possible. There is no mention of “building back better” to a cleaner future, just getting back to making as much money as possible as soon as possible – all at someone else’s expense.  That someone else may never actually be a regular traveller, but as a taxpayer can pay for it anyway. ACI and IATA mention all the jobs at stake, and indeed there are many within the industries that are facing an extremely worrying future. However, if you look at aviation recently, those jobs have always been in jeopardy. The vast majority are minimum wage/seasonal/zero-hours contracts where turnover of staff year on year is relatively high. If those employed need safety and security in their family lives, then they tend to look for that elsewhere.

Here is a link to one such press release https://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/389180/warning-of-systematic-collapse-of-aviation-industry-without-covid-testing

Let us now look at both these reports together. Aviation is a notoriously cyclical industry; it bloats itself with airlines all flying to the same places from the same airports multiple times a day. Then, for economic or environmental reasons, an event occurs which balances out the overcapacity in the markets. It then starts to get ahead of itself again, gets too big, and implodes again.  We have the current airlines and airports clamouring for “business as usual” to fill their shareholders’ pockets, whilst the major air traffic service provider says we should be taking the opportunity to clear our congested skies and “build back better” to ensure aviation comes back knowing its full obligations and responsibilities to the future of the entire planet, and not just those shareholders and the few who expect to fly wherever they want whenever they want.

Aviation will still exist with, and hopefully after Covid-19; it will just have to be lean and efficient, absorbing all technical advancements in ensuring its footprint runs in harmony with the environment and does not just keep taking from it. Airports and airline shareholders will have to learn that a positive income is just that, and not keep pushing the envelope for more income when that envelope, the planet, is already groaning at its seams.

“Build back better” and Stop Luton Airport Expansion

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