Pandemic Drives New Safety Training Requirements
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently reported on the results of an aviation industry survey which highlights the need for new worker training in the post-pandemic period. The survey of approximately 800 human resources leaders in aviation found that new employee skills will be required in order to effectively adapt to the new operational requirements of airlines, airports, and other aviation companies. One example cited was the need to load cargo into passenger aircraft cabins now that they have been repurposed for cargo transport. Among the topics identified in the survey as top areas for training were operations, safety, security, and economic disciplines. Safety, in particular, was highlighted as a major training focus for airlines, ground service providers and airports.
Digital learning will be the primary mode of training. Specifically, 36% of the survey respondents indicated that they have already shifted to distance/e-learning, while 85% of the respondents noted that online learning, including virtual classrooms, will be instrumental in the industry’s recovery. Some examples of how online learning will be used include: an online training course for former cabin crew members to help them recognize their potential outside of the industry, a virtual classroom providing training on temperature-controlled cargo operations to support COVID-19 vaccine transport, an eLearning module on air transport of pharma products, ground support equipment training for ground handlers to train them on how to best manage the maintenance of vital equipment during the pandemic, and training on transporting dangerous good amidst travel restrictions.
Regarding these new training initiatives, IATA Senior Vice President of Commercial Products and Services Frédéric Leger stated, “IATA continues to be ready to support the training needs of the aviation value chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have shown that we can quicky adapt to changing requirements.”
Government Policies Hinder Business Travel
Despite rising demand for business travel, the sector continues to struggle primarily due to obstacles being placed by government policies. This is especially true for international business travel.
A new poll released by The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) showed a 12% increased in businesses opening travel with fewer companies suspending or canceling all business travel. It is clear from the poll that domestic business travel is now broadly allowed with corporate bookings rising monthly as 77% of GBTA members indicated their employees are now very willing/willing to travel for business. That said, over half (52%) reported that government policies and restrictions were affecting their ability to network, prospect, plan and hold sales meetings.
Stated GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang, “There is clearly an appetite to resume non-essential business travel and in-person meetings to promote collaboration, network and business opportunities, but government policies and restrictions on international travel continue to hinder progress in pursuing activities so important to conducting business.”
Other key findings of the GBTA poll were:
- 54% or respondents reported feeling more optimistic than they did the prior month, 40% feel the same, and 6% feel more pessimistic.
- Customer service (sales and account management) were key drivers for business travel for 59%
- An estimated 57% of non-essential business travel was permitted according to responses received.
- Nine in ten of the businesses that had suspended most domestic business travel were now planning to resume it in the near future, while three in ten plan to resume international business travel within one to three months.
ACI Europe Recommends Measures to Mitigate Summer Travel Challenges
As a result of the higher vaccination rates around the world and the lifting of travel restrictions, passenger traffic is projected to increase almost three-fold from 47 million passengers in May to 125 million passengers in August. These are the projections of the Airports Council International (ACI) Europe which also has some strong recommendations for airports to help address the challenges these larger passenger numbers will create.
According to the ACI Europe, new pandemic safety measures at airports (e.g., social distancing, slow passenger processing due to COVID-19 testing/safety checks) have introduced additional challenges for airports. “Airports are desperate to see their facilities coming back to life, reconnecting their communities and supporting the much-needed recovery of Europe,” said ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec. “But the level of both uncertainty and complexity in planning for the restart is mind blowing for now. With each passing day, the prospect of travelers enduring widespread chaos at airports this summer is becoming or real.”
As it urges governments to take steps to assist in this area, the ACI Europe developed the following recommendations:
- The uniform adoption/implementation of the proposed revised EU Council Recommendations for travel within the EU published by the European Commission
- Governments’ readiness to issue common and interoperable EU digital COVID-10 certificates as soon as possible and also recognize these certificates from neighboring EU nations
- Assurance that COVID-19 checks not be duplicated during passengers’ travel journey
- The deployment of adequate state resources at airports to avoid delaying passengers due to manual checks and border control processes
Air Cargo Continues to Record Gains
Highly congested container shipping supply chains are contributing to the measurable gains being made in airfreight business. This was a finding of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that noted the average cost of air cargo in May was six times more expensive than seafreight compared with it being 12 times more expensive prior to the pandemic.
Data compiled by Freightos showed that air cargo rates from Asia to the U.S. have been climbing with rising ocean rates cited as one driver for the ocean to air conversions. Also noted was the belief by sone shippers that air transport may be a better way to guarantee inventory and build customer loyalty as opposed to competitors who opt for ocean shipping and experience logistical delays. As for ocean rates from China to the U.S. West Coast, Freightos reported that the week of July 4, 2021, the rate was $6,533 per 40-foot unit, representing a 151% increase over 2020. China to U.S. East Coast rates were up even higher at $10,300 per 40-foot unit; a 209% increase.
Overall, forwarders are reporting volatility in airfreight, but more stable than seafreight. IATA noted, “Air cargo also tends to over perform other means of transport at the start of an economic upturn due to restocking cycles, when businesses turn to air to rapidly refill inventors as demand rises.”