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The Aviation Industry in 2021 – The Road to Recovery

The Aviation Industry in 2021 – The Road to Recovery

2020 was a defining year for all of us as COVID-19 literally transformed our world. Simple tasks like buying groceries or exercising at the local gym are now starkly different than prior to the pandemic.

COVID-19 also had a profound effect on the way we do business, with companies across virtually all sectors being impacted by the economic turbulence of a virus that has spread around the world at a speed we have not seen in modern history.

Globally, attention is already turning to the question of how we effectively vaccinate the millions of people across the world in a safe but fast manner. The hope is that once enough people have been vaccinated, the world can finally focus on recovery.

But in the here and now, technology is already a key enabler in helping the world to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. As a technology company serving many critical sectors of the global economy – from petrochemicals to aviation to infrastructure to logistics – Honeywell is certainly not immune to this crisis. But we are also well-positioned to play a critical role in enabling economic recovery through technology and innovation.

Our focus on creating innovative, software-led technologies and our commitment to pursuing digital transformation across our organization – two initiatives that we embarked on long before the pandemic hit – have enabled us to rapidly pivot our business to focus on the solutions the world needs as it emerges from the impact of this crisis.

From healthcare to remote operations to healthy buildings to personal protective equipment (PPE), we have solutions that can play a central role in helping the world back to its feet and spur economic growth in the “new normal” that COVID-19 has created for us.

Aviation industry in 2021

Many countries across the world are still grappling with the pandemic and having their international borders still closed. The hope is that in 2021, the aviation industry will see improved performance compared to 2020, however this is contingent on countries being able to manage the pandemic outbreak and international borders reopen.

According to IATA, passenger numbers are expected to grow to 2.8 billion in 2021. That would be a billion more travelers than in 2020, but still 1.7 billion travelers short of 2019 performance. Passenger yields are expected to be flat and the load factor is expected to improve to 72.7% (an improvement on the 65.5% expected for 2020, but still well below the 82.5% achieved in 2019). 

IATA also indicated that the cargo side of the business is expected to continue with strong performance. Improved business confidence and the important role that air cargo should play in vaccine distribution is expected to see cargo volumes grow to 61.2 million tons (up from 54.2 million tons in 2020 and essentially matching the 61.3 million tons carried in 2019). 

Airlines are collectively eager for travelers to return and governments would be more than happy for borders to reopen once again so that business can resume. The question is do people want to travel again?

Findings of Air Travel Survey

Based on the findings of our recent anonymous travel survey that was conducted across the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, an overwhelming 81% of all respondents are ready to take their next flight within 12 months. This shows the appetite for travel has not waned whether for leisure or business, however the way we travel has changed permanently.

Gone are the days when a traveler’s biggest worry was whether they will get their desired inflight meals or preferred seats. These days, based on our travel survey findings, hygiene and safety measures related to air travel are most important for travelers. Nearly half (49%) of all respondents indicated that they want assurances on the cleanliness of airport and aircraft surfaces, mandatory usage of personal protective equipment such as mask and gloves, and the ability to social distance before they will consider flying again.

Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority, 81%, indicated that the three most desired items they want airlines to provide as complimentary on board are masks, hand sanitizers and surface wipes. Additionally, in a reliance on new technology over traditional processes, nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) preferred the use of ultraviolet (UV) light to treat airline cabins rather than relying on manual cleaning by airline staff (12%), or self-cleaning their seat area (16%).

Way Forward

This clearly shows the ways that travel has changed permanently, and airlines need to adapt to this new reality. At Honeywell, we have been cognizant of these emerging trends and have introduced new, innovative products to meet the demands of travelers.

In less than a year, we have launched a ThermoRebellion temperature monitoring solution, which can be rapidly deployed at the entryway of an airport or factory or any other commercial building. This allows airport staff or building managers to quickly and efficiently identify whether personnel exhibit an elevated facial temperature.

Additionally, to restore passengers’ confidence in travel, we launched an array of PPE products that protect airport and airline workers and passengers. Currently, we offer two versions of our Honeywell Safety Packs for air travel: one for passengers and one for the flight crew. The passenger version is designed for single use and contains latex-free gloves, a safety mask and hand wipes. Kits for crews and airline employees are available for single or longer-term use. Beyond use for air travel, the kits will also be available for use in office buildings, warehouses, retail stores, sports arenas, schools and other public spaces.

Another first for the industry was our partnership with Dimer LLC to develop an ultraviolet treatment (UVC) system for airlines that, when properly applied, significantly reduces certain viruses and bacteria on airplane cabin surfaces. The Honeywell UV Treatment System can treat an aircraft cabin in less than 10 minutes for just a few dollars per flight for midsize to large airline fleets.

We are optimistic that once all the mass vaccinations across the world are complete, the aviation industry will finally start to show early signs of growth. The road to recovery will be difficult and we may not see pre-pandemic passenger levels for some time, but eventually the passenger traffic will return.

Jim Currier
President - Honeywell Aerospace, EMEAI

Jim Currier is a member of Honeywell Aerospace Leadership Team, and President of the Aftermarket organization in Europe, Middle East, Africa and India. Since joining Honeywell Aerospace in 2006, Jim has held a wide range of leadership positions which included business strategy development, aftermarket growth initiatives, customer experience, mergers, acquisitions, new product development and sales.


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