Commercial aviation—and its supporting industries—has been dealt a severe blow during the pandemic. Finding the best route for recovery requires companies to take stock, review their operational and commercial approach, and adapt.
World fleet recovery
But there is reason for optimism in this otherwise difficult situation. The industry can rely on the bedrock of enthusiasm for air travel and its growth prior to 2020. Recovery will happen, but it may take several years. The numbers speak for themselves: pre-pandemic, 10 million passengers a day flew to destinations around the world alongside $18 billion worth of goods.
The ICF report forecasts a world fleet recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2024. For recovery to happen in four years (an eternity for most businesses), compelling strategies are needed to get from here to there.
Blue sky thinking and pragmatism
To make this transition as smooth as possible, it is worth harnessing a mix of blue sky thinking and pragmatism. Each company within the MRO and aerospace market will benefit from reviewing its business strategy, individual footprint, and operating model if it is going to achieve more than just survival. Each needs to put in place the right framework to ensure it weathers the short-term implications of COVID-19 and longer-term challenges.
It is unusual to have so much of the aviation fleet grounded, but current realities will force a unique response and fresh approach to airline MRO. These will range from survival mode, cash management, renegotiating existing contracts, outsourcing, digital transformation, and grasping opportunities for strategic reorganization. Change and transformation are also possible by adopting lean and agile methods.
This kind of company introspection is rarely possible during regular daily business. However, when it becomes a priority, it can dictate important step changes that make the business more robust and nimble. Challenging times can force improvements, innovation, and resilience.
Innovation for the future
Many people would like to see the pandemic as a trigger for innovation. Instead of resorting to business as usual, here is a real opportunity to do things differently and better. Leading aviation firms are looking to technology to usher in a new era of research, development, and greener ways of flying. There is potential for change in several ways: new materials, technology, control and regulations, infrastructure, and operating models—the sky is the limit.
Already, there are precedents for success with advances in electric and autonomous flight technology. Finding smart ways to reclaim the skies could meet new agreements to combat climate change and prove lucrative. According to UK Research and Innovation, taking up this challenge will revolutionize the way people, goods, and services fly. It will also position the UK as a world leader in aviation products and markets worth over $675 billion (£559bn) to 2050. As with the switch to alternative ways to power cars, those in the vanguard of bringing fundamental change to aviation will be the first to exploit the benefits.
Room for optimism
Commercial aviation has become a champion of global business. It provides the fastest worldwide passenger and freight network, generating economic growth, employment, and enabling international trade and tourism. Getting aviation off the ground again is vital, but doing so while addressing some of this sector’s most intractable problems will prove priceless.