The bad headlines about aviation are coming thick and fast, almost seeming to scream at you from the computer screen: Lufthansa is losing €1m an hour and needs a bailout; Boeing’s bottom line is reeling from coronavirus and the 737Max groundings; Air France-KLM warns that a rebound will take years; plane-makers delay deliveries as the crisis hits manufacturing; Emirates Airlines’ president Tim Clark says that coronavirus is a black-swan event for the aviation industry.
But is this really the end of global air travel? In the long-term, will we genuinely be content to replace that important client meeting or family reunion with a video call? Will the middle seat forever disappear – and with it those wonderful chance encounters with a friendly stranger bound for the same destination? Sure, the industry is certainly going to change in the next few years: expect fewer flights, smaller planes and a lot of very visible sanitising measures. And not every company will make it through, with low-cost carriers likely to be worst affected. But this is also an opportunity for carriers to rethink and improve their offering.
As we argue in our forthcoming June issue, we will still fly and we will still pack onto planes to do it. Our work, our wellbeing and our understanding of the world depends on it. “The coronavirus situation is making it clear that aviation brings a lot of social and economic benefits,” Topi Manner, CEO of Finland’s national carrier, Finnair, told Monocle’s transport correspondent, Gabriel Leigh. “The need to travel and to connect is such a fundamental part of how we live in the modern world. I think we are all feeling that now, both at a personal and a professional level.” Hear, hear.