Main WikiMiles News How Post-Pandemic Changes Impacted the U.S. Aviation Industry

How Post-Pandemic Changes Impacted the U.S. Aviation Industry

12 Apr 2023

4 years have passed since COVID-19 swept the globe. Even now, airline companies are still dealing with the pandemic’s consequences. To further complicate matters, the post-pandemic world poses a whole new set of challenges that airlines must take on and overcome.

In December 2022, Southwest Airlines had an operational meltdown which resulted in the cancellation of 16,700 flights and cost the company an initial USD 825 million. In early 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight departures were affected by a disruption in the safety communications system. Last year, roughly 29% of Southwest Airlines’ flights were delayed, compared to 18.6% before the pandemic. Federal officials are also looking into the incident of a plane nearly plummeting into the Pacific Ocean and 6 “runway incursions.” JetBlue Airways, Delta, Spirit Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have all experienced various complications which compromised their primary operations. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby insists that many airlines in the U.S. have been in denial about the new circumstances of the aviation industry. Most of these companies are still running their airlines the same way they did in 2019, inevitably resulting in various drawbacks and failures. As such, the best way to deal with the structural changes in the industry is to accept these post-pandemic realities and make adjustments.

Airline Staff Shortages 

One of the main issues faced by airlines today is the workforce shortage in the aviation industry. Most companies have found that they cannot function with the same number of pilots and staff they had in 2019. On the other hand, some airlines let go of employees during the pandemic to cut costs. To avoid bigger complications and meltdowns, airlines must prioritize finding and training new employees. 

In 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration delayed the takeoff of planes due to a shortage of staff. And as of March 2023, The FAA is in the process of replacing employees across all airline departments who either retired or resigned from their jobs following the pandemic. At the same time, the FAA seeks to maintain 45,000 current employees. David Spero, the President of Professional Aviation Safety Specialists suggests that developing the regulator’s staffing process and retaining sufficient personnel for its inspector staff would largely benefit its operations. Meanwhile, Sen. Raphael Warnock chooses to see the FAA’s staff shortage as an opportunity to welcome a wider variety of individuals and professionals into the agency. 

According to Laura Einsetler, a commercial airline pilot, workforce shortage presents many risks. She said that in the process of replacing the 20 to 25% of employees lost during the pandemic, some airlines sped up the hiring and training process to the detriment of workers and passengers alike. A distressed, inexperienced, and fatigued workforce and a surge in airfare demand due to travelers hoping to make up for lost vacation time present numerous complications and hazards.

Digital Transformation and Technological Advancements 

The aviation industry endured financial burdens due to the pandemic. To cut back on costs, senior vice president for communications and data exchange at Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) Martin Smillie said airlines started looking into digital transformation for their operational needs, like cloud operating systems and other connectivity platforms. Airlines seek to use this technology to seamlessly run their operations and offer their customers a digital experience that promotes efficiency. This may include applications or programs that make check-ins and baggage pick-ups much faster and easier. 

Inadequate airline technology compromises operations and leaves customers dissatisfied. Prioritizing technological advancements and growth has helped keep airlines afloat during the pandemic. Which is why, now more than ever, it is vital for airlines to further invest in technology that effectively handles various disruptions and complications that regularly happen in the aviation industry. 

Local and International Demand 

There was a surge in airfare demand and airline shares last year as there were fewer restrictions that kept people from traveling. Despite this, airline companies are anxious that the high costs of fuel, labor, and air travel fares might hinder the rising demand before they could fully take advantage of the revenue opportunities.

At the moment, predictions on airfare demand are generally optimistic. Airfare demand in the U.S. this year is projected to exceed demand in 2019. This is good news for airlines as the predictions suggest that air travel demand is starting to recover from the effects of the pandemic despite higher fares. 

American Airlines CEO Robert Isom anticipates good numbers this summer. Similarly, United Airlines also expects an uptick in demand starting in spring. Bloomberg Intelligence aviation industry analyst George Ferguson claims there is “pent-up” demand in Asian countries, making airlines optimistic that international flights will have an increase in demand as regions that had slow sales are rebounding. 

The global aviation industry’s post-pandemic conditions have forced airline companies to make changes in the way they operate. 

By extension, the experience of traveling itself has also been altered. To keep up with the unpredictable circumstances of the industry, airlines must keep an eye on various external factors like fuel costs, economic conditions, and geopolitical events that may impact their operations and present more conflicts and complications. Anticipating structural shifts in the industry and making informed adjustments are some of the most effective ways airlines can properly deal with these changes.  

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