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Madrid’s Terminal 4S is huge. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

Opinion: We’ll Always Need Flying

Picture yourself chasing the sunset onboard a flight. Around you, there are around 200 other people going on holiday, to reunite with family, on a business commute or perhaps attending a conference gathering the world’s experts in a certain field.

At the same time, more than a million others are airborne, connecting between multiple points on earth, for those and many more reasons which tie the world together. That’s part of the magic of flight and as we thought is pivotal for the smooth running of social and economic activity in this day and age. 

Over the last couple of weeks, a lot has changed as the spread of COVID-19 hiked across borders, only for changes to be multiplied in the last two weeks. As China and other Asian countries managed to finally contain the fast-spreading virus and turn around the contagion curve; rapid hikes in the number of cases in Italy, Iran, Spain, and subsequently the rest of Europe, the U.S and the rest of the Americas has forced a number of measures in the last week. For the first time, the world seems to be immobile.

We are seeing borders across the world being temporarily shut, flights suspended, airlines axing the vast majority of their global capacity, people and corporations halting travel throughout every corner of the world. We are seeing the U.S banning passengers from Europe, the Schengen area suspending internal flights and closing its borders to non-EU nationals for 30 days and South American countries closing borders.

In such unprecedented times, it is the first time we seeing airlines across the globe taking drastic measures to cope with a world that for once can’t fly. We are witnessing United cutting 60 percent in capacity until further notice, Delta by 70 percent. Across the pond, British Airways is cutting it by 80 percent until at least May, along with Lufthansa and Air France by 90 percent.

Perhaps the most surprising is Ryanair. The largest Boeing 737-800 operator in the world will temporarily axe the vast majority of its flights, only maintaining a small number of flights between the U.K and Ireland.

With much of the world sitting at home, working remotely if possible and to a feasible extent, doing virtual gatherings with friends and connecting with the outside world through the lens of virtuality; it is not alliin to reflect on whether this crisis while inflect many of our habits, including the way and the frequency in which we travel. 

As the world’s largest multinationals begin banning all non-essential travel and face-to-face meetings from as early as February and replacing with online teleconferencing, this could well be something that is here to stay. This certainly does not replace the need for human interactions, but might reduce the need for day trips to other cities or reduce the frequency of business commutes.

This period could unveil that potential for business to be dealt with virtually. This becomes especially prominent, as companies will be under enormous pressure to manage down costs as the global economy is hit by the consequences of people’s immobility. 

While I don’t want to get speculative on the changes that this global social isolation will bring to travel; it is likely it will change some things while reflecting some others on how the world works today. On one hand, it proves that the scale of globalization and connectivity makes pretty much everything have global repercussions. On the other, it shows we cannot live without one another and that we can interact, share, laugh and express solidarity despite not being physically in the same place. 

This doesn’t mean we won’t need flying, in fact, quite the opposite. Think about your desire to resume travel, discover new destinations, reunite with love ones that live elsewhere or engage in new projects that capture opportunities in other geographical locations.  It’s hardly possible to imagine a world without the urge for geographical displacement for more reasons than we could possibly imagine. Sooner than later, the magic of flight will be there for us to chase dreams. We just might, to an extent change the frequency in which we displace.  

To the enormously passionate and resilient aviation community, I share my deepest solidarity through these rough times. Let’s hope the industry once again shines for its capacity for recovery and sooner than later airports are filled up, planes take off and land and those who make the magic of flight back doing what they love. The next few months will be tough, especially as the economic shocks will for the first time impact the vast majority of the world’s economies at the same time, but it certainly won’t last forever. 

Jose Antonio Payet
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Jose Antonio Payet
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