Editor’s comment: Turning a crisis into an opportunity

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Winston Churchill famously said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

The former British Prime Minister’s quote has seldom been more appropriate than now given the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. It was certainly a directive that was adopted by speakers and delegates alike during this week’s AviaDev Europe online conference. Rising to the theme of adapt, develop and engage, the overriding message from discussions was clear – don’t be afraid, address the challenges, adjust your model and do not waste this downturn.

“This is a whole new card game and the reality is nobody knows the rules,” offered Claus Raasted, Director for the College of Extraordinary Experiences. He delivered an invigorating talk on how to exploit the unique possibilities of a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, in which he cited Churchill’s quote. “Those who dare, get to rewrite the rules. If you just wait and repeat what you did yesterday, you will fail,” he enthused.

It was fitting then that ahead of the event, Juraj Toth, Managing Director of AviaDev Europe, told Regional Gateway that he was “Excited and proud of the AviaDev Europe team, that we are the first in this space to launch a platform for the route development community to get together online, in the post-COVID world.”

Giving advice on how airlines can survive and rethink their future, Becca Rowland at MIDAS Aviation warned regional carriers they will need to work harder to be more competitive. She also referenced how passenger preferences have changed. “Safety and security concerns around connecting through airports are real and passengers will increasingly want to fly nonstop. Domestic and local regional travel will be first to recover, but long-haul travel will take longer. There are ways to make connectivity and hub systems work but those airports focused on long-haul connectivity will struggle,” she said.

Referencing how the current situation has provided tourism boards with an opportunity to regain their position of power at the aviation strategy table, Gavin Eccles, Professor of Aviation and Tourism Management, urged airports to work more closely with tourist boards to give confidence to airlines. He added, “However, we must be careful that we are coordinated in our approach so that airports and local tourism authorities don’t end up competing with each other.”

Shining the spotlight on the issue of seasonality and how it affects the aviation and tourist industry, Gerard Brown, Founder and CEO of Low Season Traveller (pictured), underlined the need for a collaborative approach. “Budgets are being cut so we should be using some form of barter system,” he advised. “Your airport or destination has a database of contacts that is different to mine. We can help promote each other’s business to our respective networks. No money changes hands, but in the long run we both benefit.”

The need to introduce rapid, cost-effective COVID testing at airports and the call for greater harmonisation over travel restrictions were also discussed, with Max Oldorf from CH Aviation illustrating how there was a definite and sharp increase in air travel when Europe opened its borders and eased travel restrictions in May, but a clear decrease in demand when the restrictions were reintroduced at the end of August.

The conferencing wrapped up with an insightful panel discussion on how regional aircraft are helping to rebuild the airline industry. And alluding to Churchill’s quote, Sameer Adam, Regional Vice President, Sales – Europe, Russia & CIS, Middle East and Africa at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, concluded that stakeholders across the regional aviation sector need to focus on the long game, saying “It’s about looking to the horizon and coming out of the COVID pandemic having made a difference!”

Have a great weekend and don’t forget, if you haven’t already seen it, the latest issue of Regional Gateway magazine is out now!

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway.

How regional aircraft are helping to rebuild the aviation industry

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

There are many reasons why we can still be optimistic about the future of regional aviation. So stated three panelists representing Embraer, De Havilland and ATR as they discussed how choosing the right aircraft type can help rebuild the aviation industry during AviaDev Europe’s online conference on Wednesday 16 September.

In a session moderated by John Grant, partner in MIDAS Aviation, Clemente Affinito –Vice President Sales Europe, ATR; Sameer Adam – Regional Vice President, Sales – Europe, Russia & CIS, Middle East & Africa at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited; and Michael Nowak – Marketing Director EMEA & Central Asia, Embraer were all united in their belief that as the aviation industry looks to the recovery period the need for regional aircraft is stronger than ever.

“We’ve all had to adjust to manage through the pandemic,” said Sameer Adam. “We’ve managed to work with our customers throughout the crisis to manage demand and to retain our staff and resources in order to manage production,” he added.

Adam also noted that all three regional players are working hard to help stimulate the market again by ensuring that regional carriers can resume operations as cost effectively and efficiently as possible even with low passenger numbers. One of De Havilland Canada’s most recent deliveries was in June, when it delivered a DASH 8-400 to TAAG Angola Airlines (TAAG) to support the development of the carrier’s domestic and regional network in and around Angola.

Amid the current health restrictions Clemente Affinito underlined how ATR has developed a remote delivery process to support customers’ recovery efforts. “There are challenges but we are working hard to overcome those,” he said.  Highlighting how ATR’s versatility and flexibility have been key to its stability, Affinito referenced how his company has seen three new ATR operators (Air Leap, Windrose and Lubeck Air) enter the market in Europe during the peak of the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile Embraer’s Michael Nowak pointed out that the number of aircraft being delivered currently is not necessarily a measure of success. “We are in a tough situation, when forcing delivery to a customer is not necessarily the best decision. It’s about focusing on the longer term plan.”

Nowak believes that, “while hub airports are under significant pressure, and there will be a  shift towards point to point connectivity, this won’t be drastic and regional connectivity will continue to face its own challenges.” He also emphasised that with the sustainability debate more prevalent than ever, regional airlines and manufacturers need to consider how they will face greater competition from other more environmentally friendly transport options on certain routes.

Adam added that manufacturers are learning to adapt to the constantly evolving situation all the time. De Havilland Canada has found that around 8% of routes being flown today are new for regional carriers.

What’s more the passenger demographic and demand is changing. “Does the average passenger still have the income and ability to travel as they did before?” he asked. He also stated that passengers are less likely to want to travel if it means connecting through another major hub where they run the risk of increased testing and delays etc.

All three panelists concluded by warning that while we can still unfortunately expect to see the demise of some airlines and small airports in the coming months, the overall outlook for the future of the domestic and regional aviation sector is optimistic.

Affinito said he was confident that, “ATR will be back up to the same production levels as before the crisis in the next 24 months.”

Nowak meanwhile underlined that Embraer’s value proposition hasn’t changed and the manufacturer’s “narrative is now more relevant than ever,” as he pointed out, “It’s now about  supporting airlines with suppressed demand.”

And whether it’s a second wave of coronavirus or economic decline that will continue to impact air travel, Adam agreed that tough decisions are now having to be made to rationalise aviation’s rapid growth in recent years. But he also urged, it’s about playing the long game, saying, “You need to look to the horizon. It’s about coming out of the COVID pandemic having made a difference.”