Should Governments Have Allowed Airlines to Collapse?

LONDON – Ever since the beginning of the global pandemic, almost every form of public transport, but also life in general, came to an (almost) complete standstill.

People started working from home with no need to take the car, plane, bus, or train to their job. In the weeks before the lockdown, however, many airlines have first stopped flying to China, while doing repatriation flights to pick up the citizens and tourists stuck in China, and then tried to stop flying to other pandemic related hotspots.

These repatriation flights, however, hadn’t had much success, and the coronavirus still spread heavily, “from China to Italy and from there to the rest of Europe and the US” (IEA 2022).

On March 17, the European Union has imposed a travel ban on many countries, especially on countries that are outside the EU. During the same period, many countries imposed “draconian” lockdowns as the infection and mortality rate was skyrocketing.

One of the measures was the issue of “non-essential travel”, which was banned and people could get heavily fined if they didn’t comply with this rule.

For the people that were still traveling, they would face a big change in their traveling habits.

First of all, masks began to be mandatory, many, if not all, countries required a negative COVID test, and if that wasn’t everything, many countries also made a 14-day isolation period mandatory, even after being tested negative for COVID.

Traveling became associated with unreliability, as you never knew when the rules might change, either for the best or worse.

This discouraged many people to fly, and although it did do some good, as it made people question if flying was as necessary as they thought it was, it harmed the industry itself.

In the UK alone, a reduction of 97% of flights had occurred. People had, at the end of May, almost no trust in flying.

Of course, all things come to an end, as at the end of the first wave (which was in summer 2020), people noticed that the spread rate, and the mortality rate, was dropping significantly.

This helped many to get a chance to get traveling again, but as soon as July 25, the first signs of a second wave began to emerge.

As soon as the second wave started, many of the same rules and measures imposed in the first lockdown were added back again, and the additional measure of having to test yourself before and after departing became the norm for many countries.

Airline and aviation subsidies


Because of the ongoing situation, not only the airlines or the airports have a difficult time staying alive, also every other industry that relied on the aviation market had struggles.

For example, the British Rolls-Royce had to borrow about £2 billion from the government.

Airlines also had to borrow money to stay alive, for example, KLM had financial support from the Dutch government of about €3.4 billion.

Government response to the pandemic


The governments have faced ever since the beginning of the pandemic a major “headache”.

The government bodies knew how well the aviation market spread the disease, but they also knew how important the aviation market is to their economies.

Many governments allowed the airlines to keep existing for the simple reason to make sure as few people as possible lost their jobs.

After the liberalization of the government to the aviation market, and the very low infection rate, people assumed that the worst has been over, a new variant had emerged; the Delta variant.

This variant of the coronavirus had a much higher infection rate and is the main cause of the second wave.

The government also struggled for a long time to get to a middle ground, until the vaccinations came, and freedom has arrived to many people, as they wouldn’t need to get tested anymore, and only show their proof of vaccination.

That freedom didn’t last long, however, as the vaccination proved to be quite ineffective, contrary to what many people thought it would be.

Then the booster campaign started, and hopefully, that will be the last of any measures we have to take. Many governments are now trying to relax the measures as well.


References:

https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/DP104_Planes-trains-automobiles_web78.pdf

https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/staatsdeelnemingen/vraag-en-antwoord/financiele-steun-aan-klm

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