Aviation has headed back to the 1930s; the world could face a similar historic reset

Aviation has headed back to the 1930s; the world could face a similar historic reset

A massive downturn expected earlier to last just a few months has turned into something quite different and even now, we still don’t know just how different it will be. But what’s now clearly apparent is that the now certain extended delay entirely changes the outlook for the industry.

There has been much talk about aviation losing 30 to 40 years of development in terms of passenger traffic, like a trip back to the 1970s, with its reduced traffic levels, the prospect of more active government intervention, smaller networks and higher prices.

But, CAPA – Centre for Aviation founder and chairman emeritus, Peter Harbison warned in Sep-2020 as we remember aviation in the 1930s that the ongoing public health crisis has sent us even further back to the 1930s when you consider international air travel and closed borders and a heightened risk of injury. “There are important lessons to be learned from industry and government behaviour 90 years ago,” said Mr Harbison in his editorial in the Airline Leader magazine.

WWI had spawned the multilateral Paris Convention of 1919, which established that every state had absolute sovereignty in the airspace over its territory – a response to the new aircraft that easily crossed boundaries. “That meant essentially that all borders were closed to foreign aircraft and permission became necessary even to overfly,” said Mr Harbison.

Additionally, in the early, barnstorming days of aviation, the biggest inhibitor of commercial air travel expansion was safety. “There was an uncomfortable tendency for airlines to crash, a feature that would be passengers found undesirable,” explained Mr Harbison.

In last week’s Feb-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – Mr Harbison reiterated the travel and aviation industries that emerge from this pandemic will look vastly different than it did before the COVID-19 outbreak.