Long term Club Member, Chris Tarry, established CTAIRA in December 2002 to provide research consulting services and advice on and to the transport and aviation industries in the areas of business planning, including strategy and strategic development; industry and market forecasting ad performance measurement and evaluation. His services are provided to a broad and still growing spectrum of clients drawn from airlines, manufacturing companies, airport owners, government bodies, banks and other financial institutions. Chris has also acted as advisor to government departments, regulators and the UK Parliament on aviation issues and has also been, a member of a number of industry panels and advisory councils.
Chris has generously provided a number of topical papers for circulation to members, the first of which – The CTAIRA Passenger Confidence Survey, is a survey which has drilled deep to understand which activities or requirements would be considered sufficient to give confidence to fly again once any restrictions are lifted, in a bid to answer how traveller confidence can be restored. The Survey report can be read HERE.
Unfortunately, our events programme remains suspended and last week we missed the April lunch, where we would have been joined by guest speaker John Holland-Kaye, CEO Heathrow Airport. I know many of you were particularly looking forward to hearing from John and rest-assured, he will join us at a future date.
Stock markets have collapsed, businesses have had to close and public life is restricted due to the Covid-19 virus. It’s a humanitarian crisis and there are drastic global restrictions in place to minimise the spread. They may vary from continent to continent, but one thing they have caused already: A large part of commercial air traffic has come to a standstill. Travel bans and plummeting demand have darkened the future of the aviation industry. Never before has it been hit by an incident of this magnitude, resulting in almost no passenger business.
Whilst John was unable to address Club members and guests last week, he has provided an insight into the current situation, which you can read below:
‘Prior to this outbreak, our sector thrived. Many of us had enjoyed record breaking years. Airlines prepared to launch new routes to untapped markets, that would take British goods to more parts of the world and bring back tourists and inward investment to our beautiful isles. Many airports were progressing growth plans, be it in existing terminal buildings, emergency runways or building new ones.
This feels like a lifetime away, yet it was only a few months. It was only twelve weeks ago our industry felt the first warning ripples of the initial outbreak in China and we started working with health officials on enhanced monitoring measures. As the outbreak became a pandemic, travel bans and lock downs became the norm, crippling trade and tourism and mothballing planes and terminals.
While some commentators have questioned why airports remain open, there has been increasing realisation of the crucial role aviation plays in the fight against Covid-19.
I often talk about the critical economic role Heathrow plays as the UK’s biggest port. Today, many of us are working around the clock to keep vital supply lines open, as ventilators and precious PPE equipment land at airports across the country supporting the battle against this pandemic. If we were not open, tens of thousands of British citizens would be stranded across the world without the support of friends and family or even access to medical help. So let us pay tribute to the hard working men and women of the aviation industry who have worked so hard on the front line to support the NHS and bring people home.
But even as we serve the nation, the aviation sector is facing real financial distress. Our revenues have disappeared, but our costs remain largely fixed. This is an existential threat to our supply chain, as well as all those who rely on aviation for their livelihoods. We will publicly support any business in our sector that needs Government help. It is vital that we emerge from this crisis with a vibrant and competitive aviation industry. The government can do more to help. We have been pushing for deferral of Business Rates, which represent over 10% of our costs, and currently more than our revenues. Only in Scotland has the government waived unaffordable rates to support aviation. Now we need a level playing field.
Whilst we are consumed by this crisis, it is important that we think about how we can accelerate the recovery, and the critical issue will be the reopening of borders to international travellers, without the need for quarantine. The crisis came on so rapidly that each country set its own health screening standards, with little coordination. Rightly or wrongly, those that require temperature checks, are perceived as being safer than others, such as the UK.
As we come out of this crisis, each country will be cautious about reopening their borders to avoid the risk of reinfection. Until there is a cure or a vaccination, it is likely that travel between countries will only happen if each considers the other to be low risk, and to have similar high standards. So the aviation industry needs a common biosecurity standard for air travel, just as there is for airport security.
And the UK needs to be at forefront of this. We are an island nation and a trading nation, which is why we have one of the biggest aviation sectors in the world. Millions of jobs in tourism, education, retail and exports rely on aviation. Unless we can make it safe for people to visit Britain, the UK economy will be held back. Let’s work together with the international aviation sector and governments to define and agree a common biosecurity standard.
Leaving the middle seat empty on planes cannot be a long term solution. It would take out a third of the world’s aviation capacity, drive up the cost of travel for marginal safety improvement and increase every passenger’s carbon footprint.
Maybe it is better that, as with airport security, the test for whether someone is safe to fly should take place at the entrance to the airport or at airport security, so that we can minimise the need for social distancing on the plane or at the gate. If there is a common international standard, we will know that any arriving passenger will be low risk and we can minimise the need social distancing in immigration or baggage reclaim also. We have made good progress on automating the passenger journey, but the final steps have been held up by bureaucracy. Now is the time to push ahead so that we minimise contact between aviation workers and passengers in check in, bag drop, security, boarding and immigration.
If we can get this right, we will be more resilient to deal with any future pandemic. And the aviation sector and all the industries that rely on us, can fly high into the future.’ John Holland-Kaye, CEO Heathrow Airport
Greetings everyone, hope all are well and are at least enjoying the Spring weather.
It appears things are moving fast….to slow things down! The RAC have informed us that they are closing until 14 June and thus have to cancel our 10 June booking. They are merely following what all Clubs in London seem to be doing, the closure covering the 12 week critical period that we have entered into as detailed by the Government, a period that is open for extension if deemed necessary, or subject to additional restrictive measures as seen by the Prime Minister’s announcement last night.
With the cancellation of Farnborough International we have cancelled the Summer Reception planned for Sunday 19 July, and our lunch scheduled for 10 June is now cancelled as well. As with John Holland-Kaye, I see the cancellation of Ed Bastion, CEO of Delta, as merely a postponement, and we shall rearrange these lunches as soon as is convenient and workable.
As things stand the next Club events are the lunch on 17 September and then the Ball at the end of that month. We shall keep these dates open at this stage and make final decisions once the way ahead is clearer.
As the Club is now forced into a period of unexpected hibernation, I sense everyone, Committee and Members alike, have far more on their minds at the moment than Club Elections, especially so for a Committee that will not meet again until September at the earliest. These are uncharted and unprecedented times, and I believe it now makes pragmatic sense to put the Club Elections on hold for this year as well. Three Committee members were up for re-election, and another was due to stand down having completed two successive terms. I believe it makes sense that we essentially stop the Committee clock for this year for all those currently on the Committee, and thus all those up for re-election or due to stand down remain on the Committee for the coming year, namely until the Club Elections of April 2021. Anyone who would have been due re-election or due to stand-down in April 2021 would remain on until April 2022 and so on, in effect just stopping the clock now and restarting it again in April 2021. I believe this is a sensible way forward given the current circumstances and the uncertainly that still lies ahead.
On a brighter note, the Club has been receiving requests for assistance from Members covering a number of matters, I shall send out a separate note on this news shortly.
Firstly, and most importantly, I hope this note finds you and your family and friends well and managing to muddle through the current challenges facing us all.
The Club Committee has been monitoring the current coronavirus situation, and it’s now very clear that we need to postpone the Club lunch in April where John Holland-Kaye, CEO Heathrow Airport, was to be our guest speaker. Please be assured however that this is merely a postponement. What is happening at Heathrow is of huge importance and interest to the Club and we look forward to welcoming John along to speak at the Club at the earliest convenient date.
Cancelling the April lunch clearly effects the AGM that has traditionally been attached to this event. The AGM will be re-arranged as an Extraordinary GM at the first sensible and convenient date. If the June and July events go ahead, then clearly we could attach an EGM then; we will cross that bridge when it comes.
Whilst the AGM is delayed, the Committee elections will still go ahead, these now being conducted largely on-line. This will allow the elections to be concluded in line with Club rules by 30 April and Philippa will be sending out the required notifications before the end of this week.
Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is undoubtedly the strangest of times, and timely communication going forward will be crucial. We are keeping under review the June lunch and July reception, and should decisions need to be made, they will be taken well ahead of the events to avoid any confusion.
Whilst the Club events schedule is on hold for the foreseeable
future, the Club has received several requests for assistance in recent weeks
arising out of the coronavirus crisis.
Our ever efficient Club Secretary, Philippa Ewart, has
fielded requests for help as diverse as an overseas government seeking the
support from a Member with extensive aviation sector crisis management
experience, to connecting a Member with two other Members in companies
operating in the air cargo sector, regarding the airlift of NHS purchased
emergency medical supplies from China to the UK. Philippa also receives
requests from the media seeking input from aviation experts. In recent
weeks I’ve heard the dulcet and knowledgeable tones of some of our Members on
the TV and radio commenting on the issues facing the aviation sector as a
result of this crisis; no better listening over my breakfast!
Philippa continues to manage such requests for
support. Should any Member need some assistance, or has an idea
regarding how the Club with its wide-ranging and experienced Members and their
extensive and diverse industry contacts can be of help during the current
situation, please liaise with Philippa and we’ll see what can be done.
The eminent aviation analyst Chris Tarry shared his views on the near, medium and also the longer-term outlook for the aviation industry at the Aviation Club’s quarterly Young Aviation Professionals’ Reception held at the RAF Club last week. His comments, here in a precis form, were in a sense out of date as he spoke, and have been updated to reflect the developments up and until 15 March, but do give a view as he sees it.
Chris spoke at the Royal Air Force Club.“The old clichés are still true ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’. The COVID-19 crisis comes on top of the MAX debacle, where the fall in the oil price, whilst significant for a number of economies is of limited importance for the airline industry where the issue is one of precipitous falls in revenue and cash.
It is clear that the nature and pervasiveness of COVID-19 and the responses by governments, companies and individuals, have been quite different from any recent “pandemic events”.
In terms of reactions by companies, a much more evident “duty of care” in respect of their employees has resulted in almost immediate travel bans with the consequential impact on high value travel and forward bookings with the inevitable impact on cash.
Whilst Italy has become in effect the first closed market in Europe others are following. In terms of the potential impact, taken together the number of passengers flying to and from UK airports to Italy, Portugal and Spain combined is some 70million.
We had also seen airlines announce significant capacity reductions even before President Trump’s announcement regarding European flights.
For many airlines these latest developments have become an almost existential threat – the effective suspension of routes to the US are catastrophic for both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Beyond this the closure of other markets, to date Czech Republic, India, Italy, Poland and Spain, will inevitably increase.
Elsewhere for Finnair with the US, India and the majority of its Asian destinations effectively now closed life has become very difficult. The challenges facing Norwegian are well-documented. Managements at both a number of airports and airlines in Europe and elsewhere including the US are clear in their view that state aid is essential at the present moment – indeed to sustain the economic and societal benefits from aviation such support may indeed be necessary but it shouldn’t be open ended.
We have also seen employers react, as they have in similar situations by cutting, or more appropriately slashing, capacity to reduce costs and also lay-offs and employees taking “voluntary” unpaid leave.
Despite the fall in the fuel price this is in operating terms “de minimis” given the fundamental deterioration in the revenue environment, although it has resulted in some potentially significant hedging losses.
Whilst it would not be appropriate to suggest “who’s next” in terms of likely to fail, we are not only looking at the challenges but also at the opportunities and for whom and when.
My view for some time has been that the industry has had too much capacity. It is reasonable to expect a glut of pre-owned aircraft. This adjustment will provide opportunities for airlines and lessors to acquire aircraft at very attractive prices.
Whilst the market for air travel and indeed the stock markets, where “excessive valuations” had been evident for some time and a correction was overdue, they will recover. The questions are when and how quickly?
In the UK the government has implemented what is described as the delay strategy where the objective is to delay and reduce the peak of the outbreak of the virus. However, the reality is that just as many are likely to succumb to the virus as under the alternative strategy where the peak is higher and earlier. Flybe seems a minor issue.
There remains the issue of the environment restrictions, which despite managements setting out their strategies to reach net zero by 2050 has the very real potential to act as a very real constraint to growth over the longer term.
At the simplest level the impact of electric or hybrid aircraft is exceptionally limited and only applicable to small regional aircraft over any reasonable time horizon. Synthetic fuel is clearly an alternative but given the demands to find additional arable land to feed the growing population, plant-based feedstocks are a non-starter.
Even allowing for some technological breakthroughs synthetic fuel will cost perhaps 5-8 times that of fossil fuel (before the fall due to the actions taken by Saudi Arabia over the last week or so), something which will have an inevitable effect on demand.
At the present moment the total amount of synthetic fuel available in a year would provide enough for 36 hours flying by Lufthansa.
There is a real risk that not only might offsets become less acceptable, indeed to offset the emissions in 2019 some 180m trees would need to have been planted some 20 years ago.
Whilst the airline industry currently accounts for some 2% of global emissions, given what is happening elsewhere, and taking into account current technical developments in the airline industry, the continuing use of fossil fuel, and prevailing growth forecasts, this share could rise to 15% by 2050. Given this and the cost of substitutes it is almost inevitable that beyond the medium term there will be a need to revisit growth forecasts.
In summary the only conclusion is that as we have yet to reach the bottom let alone approach a turning point it will get worse before it gets better and where the short term in particular will be extremely painful and for some overwhelming. The emphasis must be on survival and how to compete and prosper are issues for another day when the shape and size of the remaining industry will be clearer.
Wrenelle Stander, group chief executive of Comair, BA’s South African franchise holder, was the Aviation Club’s guest of honour at the RAC last Wednesday (11 March).
Uniquely, due to COVID-19, her talk was via a video link from Johannesburg.Introducing herself with 25 years of aviation and energy industry experience, she painted a broad picture of the South African airline scene, a market comprising 16m annual passengers. Airline services are provided by a mix of state-owned and private carriers. Comair is in fact two airlines, one with British Airways painted aircraft, and Kulula, a low-cost operation. In 2018, it moved 5.8m passengers, has been profitable for the past 10 years but now finds itself with a loss.
Stander joined Comair in October 2018. Her previous posts included deputy CEO of the South African Civil Aviation Authority and director general at the country’s Department of Transport.
South African Airlines and the MAX are Comair’s big problems. SAA was placed in Voluntary Business Rescue on 5 December 2019 and owes Comair around £40m. With the MAX, the first of eight aircraft has been delivered.
Stander summed up her thinking by saying: “It’s been an eventual past few months. If someone told me that joining Comair would be such a rollercoaster, I would not have believed it. However, I would probably still have gone for it”.
An African success story will be the focus of the Aviation Club UK on 11 March, when the guest speaker will be Comair Group CEO and former head of Comair Airlines Wrenelle Stander.
Wrenelle Stander: 15 years at executive level.She was appointed in December as part of a restructuring at South Africa-based Comair, which operates scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee and as a low-cost carrier under its own Kulula brand.
Working for most of her career in what she acknowledges is a male-dominated business, Stander has more than 25 years’ experience in the aviation and energy industries, 15 at executive leadership level.
Previous jobs include periods as managing director of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company (ATNS), one of only three women worldwide to hold such a position; deputy CEO of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and director general at the Department of Transport.
Comair operates within South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean islands and the group continues to form partnerships with industry leaders in travel reward and recognition programmes.
It holds a special place in aviation having achieved 72 years of uninterrupted profitable operations, and has been officially recognised as one of South Africa’s top employers for 2020.
Steve Dickson, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, speaks at the UK Aviation Club about the Boeing 737 MAX, in London, Britain, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Boeing 737 MAX regulator comes to London
Steve Dickson, administrator of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
appeared at The Aviation Club UK, to discuss the status of the 737 MAX,
innovation in aviation, and the global landscape of the industry.
his perspective on the return of the MAX, Dickson said:
are not delegating anything, the FAA is retaining all regulatory functions.
Once approved this will be the most scrutinised aircraft ever, and I won’t sign
off the aircraft until I fly in it myself.
needs to focus on the process and stop making public statements about
also talked about the “close alignment” with other regulators on certification,
but should they want to take an additional timeline “that is ok.”
to home, on the regulatory landscape post-Brexit, Dickson said:
world places great value on the United Kingdom’s role in the global aviation
industry, and we are here for you.”
was sworn in last August after being confirmed by the US Senate. He is a former
senior vice-president at Delta Air Lines.
Aviation Club is the UK’s leading high-level forum for commercial aviation –
attracting industry leaders from all over the world.
Last Saturday’s (25 January) maiden test flight of the new Boeing B777X will provide another topical subject to be discussed at next month’s Aviation Club lunch in London, with the man in one of the industry’s currently most controversial jobs as guest speaker. (see also in the issue Further MAX delay to summer confirmed plus AND FINALLY.
Steve Dickson: At the heart of controversy.Steve Dickson, administrator of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is at the heart of the B737 MAX controversy and is expected to give some indication of when the aircraft will be allowed to return to service.
He now also has the pending arrival of the B777X, the world’s largest twin-engine passenger jet, to deal with as well as the wider issue of safety regulatory issues post Brexit.
As a former senior vice-president of flight operations for Delta Air Lines and a strong advocate for commercial aviation safety and improvements to the US national airspace system, Dickson is particularly well qualified to carry out his new job.
He was sworn in as FAA administrator last August after being confirmed for a five-year term by the US Senate.
Bookings are now open for the Aviation Club gathering, which is on 6 February at the new venue at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. It is also a curtain-raiser for the organisation’s 30th anniversary this year.