The outbreak of covid-19 caused a major shock to the global economy in 2020, with huge economic loses and a dramatic drop in GDP for almost every country around the world. According to statistics published by ICAO, passenger numbers dropped by 2,699 million across the year – 60% fewer than in 2019. in addition, the total number of available seats decreased by 50%, losing airlines an estimated $370 million in revenue.
International flights took the biggest hit, as governments around the world tried to keep their COVID-19 cases low by closing borders.
In total, there were 921 million fewer passengers in Asia- Pacific in 2020 than there were in 2019. This 45% drop in capacity lost airlines an estimated $120 billion in revenue. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Asia-Pacific accounted for around 30% of global international traffic, whist 20% of the world’s domestic flights took place within China.
For the whole region, the second and third quarters of 2020 were the most difficult period for the aviation industry with a huge drop in both passenger numbers and Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs). However, domestic flights began to bounce back by the fourth quarter, especially in bigger countries with large populations.
Because of the drastic reduction in business and leisure passengers, airlines around the world dramatically cut back on their schedules, with many pilots, cabin crew and engineers being either furloughed, or losing their jobs altogether.
To understand the future need for pilots and cabin crew in Asia-Pacific, Asian Sky Group created a survey, which was then sent to companies that host training courses in the region. One respondent was the School of Aviation at the University of New South Wales – an Australian public research university located in a Sydney suburb that was established in 1949. The school offers unique programs in aviation management, research, and professional flight training – especially ATPL courses. Another is the Wayman Aviation Academy, which was founded in 1987 as a maintenance shop. Although it is based in Miami, Florida, Wayman’s fixed wing students come from all over the US, as well as Latin America and Asia. Oriental Signature, based in Hong Kong, offers hospitality and etiquette training for business jet cabin crews to serve VIP guests. The last is Omni Aviation. Based in the Philippines, Omni offers pilot training, as well as training programs for cabin crew, airline services and maintenance.
How did the outbreak of COVID-19 impact your training business and what is the current situation?
Gabriel Lodewijks, Head of School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney: “We stopped our flight training when the university moved to online learning and working from home in March 2020. The current situation is the same as last year. We now fly seven days a week instead of five days to make up for the six-week prohibition during the darkest period in 2020.”
Tony Shen, President of Wayman Aviation Academy: “The COVID-19 outbreak had a significant impact on our international student enrollment due to the travel restrictions and the lack of US visa interviews around the world.”
Jessie Pan, Managing Director of Oriental Signature: “We are now actively following the policies set up by the government. As our courses are online as well as offline, our operation in Hong Kong has stopped for now. As the situation in mainland China is relatively stable, we have reopened our online courses, but for now the practical courses are still on hold.”
Jhuniella Aira P. Salalac, Corporate Communications Specialist of OMNI Aviation:” The implementation of Community Quarantine across the Philippines caused OMNI’s training operations to be suspended completely for two months. Now, a year after the shutdown, we are seeing a gradual but steady return of trainees that are eager to see the aviation industry rebound from the pandemic.”
What anti COVID-19 measures have you put in place?
Gabriel Lodewijks, Head of School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney, mentioned a strict COVID-19 protocol issued by UNSW. The policies include the prohibition of public transportation as the commuting method to the flying school, a temperature check before entering the premises, as well as airplane disinfection after each flight and other measures.
Tony Shen, President of Wayman Aviation Academy: “We established very stringent company COVID-19 guidance and policies in early March 2020 and have been updating it as the situation evolves. We have made a lot of effort to communicate with our clients regarding all the safety measures that we are taking, which has really helped minimize the negative impact on our business.”
Jessie Pan, Managing Director of Oriental Signature: “We stopped all offline courses to make sure that all of our students and teachers stay safe and sound.”
Jhuniella Aira P. Salalac, Corporate Communications Specialist of OMNI Aviation: “During the government-mandated suspension of most business operations, our team prioritized the improvement and sterilization of our equipment and facilities, placing great importance on COVID-19 related health protocols.”
When do you expect your business to return to pre COVID-19 levels?
Gabriel Lodewijks, Head of School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney, said that its daily operations and the number of students participating in its programs were not affected by COVID-19.
Tony Shen, President of Wayman Aviation Academy: “Despite the expected slower recovery of the airline industry, we believe that the flight training industry will have an immediate and drastic rebound after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jessie Pan, Managing Director of Oriental Signature, mentioned that practical courses such as wine testing are still necessary and cannot be replaced by robots, as business aviation is specialized in offering customized services to satisfy customer needs. Pan therefore believes that there is pent up demand for pilots and cabin crew.
Jhuniella Aira P. Salalac, Corporate Communications Specialist of OMNI Aviation indicated that it is hoping to improve and return to normal by early or mid-2022. Salalac said that the aviation training industry is expected to recover on a slow and steady trajectory, with a rapid increase once the aviation sector recovers.
Will COVID-19 have a lasting effect on how training is conducted in the future?
Gabriel Lodewijks, Head of School of Aviation, UNSW Sydney, said that he expects to reopen face-to-face lectures while still offering online courses for students that need it, as their business is predicted to recover before March 2021.
Jessie Pan, Managing Director of Oriental Signature, indicated that where possible, offline course have been switched to online with a series of meetings and short videos, as well as course notebooks given to students. Pan says that one day in the future, when more technology is available, it may be possible to move the courses that are currently taught in person online.
Jhuniella Aira P. Salalac, Corporate Communications Specialist of OMNI Aviation mentioned that to adapt and innovate are key strategies to sustain and to grow a business after the pandemic. She revealed that introducing new types of training methods, specific market segmentation, simplified and appealing courses would be vital. “It is not the strongest organization to weather this pandemic, but it is the most adaptable to change.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, it is possible that training schools will need to adapt further than they already have. However, in the long-term, the industry is poised for growth, although this is likely to be quite slow as the aviation industry rebounds back to where it was before COVID-19.
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