The future of the aviation industry – the long road to full recovery
Almost three years ago, the aviation industry faced immense challenges when the pandemic hit, grounding flights to a halt. Thankfully, things have come on leaps and bounds since then, with the 2022 summer holiday season seeing far more healthy flight numbers compared to the years prior.
However, with that being said, flight and passenger numbers are still not up to pre-2020 levels causing uncertainty around the future of the aviation industry; the road to a full recovery will likely be a long one.
In some parts of the world, the impact has lingered for longer. Australia, with their consistent closure of national borders, saw international passenger numbers down from 2019 by 61% in 2020 and by a huge 97.5% in 2021. In Asia Pacific, air traffic in 2022 is 54% of 2019 levels, with international travel at an even lower 35%. Recovery in Asia Pacific is influenced by China’s zero-COVID policy, which still requires PCR tests to be taken, affecting the region’s ability to fully recover.
While there has been very positive signs in the holidaymaking market this past summer, business travel has hit headwinds with the forecast for full recovery now moving into 2026, instead of 2024 as previously forecast. So, what’s stalling aviation recovery? And what can be done to mitigate the issues caused by the slow return to full capacity?
Staffing is one area that was massively impacted by the pandemic. As air traffic fell dramatically in 2020, airlines were forced to reduce their headcount. Now, as flight numbers are increasing, we are starting to see the long-term impact that losing talent has had. Airline staffing shortages are expected to extend well into 2023, and that is across the board, from pilots to flight attendants and even mechanics. In the US, the number of airline pilots and engineers dropped by 4% between 2019 and 2021 and it is expected that the country will need an additional 14,000 new pilots every year for the next decade. These shortages have brought additional stress and fatigue to the pilots currently working. Southwest Airlines Pilots Association stated that “pilot fatigue rates have reached an all-time high”, amid ongoing scheduling issues, poor pay rates and other concerns.
These shortages have meant a drop in service levels, and as the price of fuel has risen, so has the cost of air travel. This has resulted in a fall in customer satisfaction.
Why is a quality management system essential to create a culture of safety and transparency?
The impact of the pandemic, the rising cost of fuel, and the cost-of-living crisis has meant that investing in an efficient quality and safety system has become paramount. If we are ever going to go back to our pre-pandemic ways, it is vital you implement a solution to help create value for customers, foster a safe and supportive environment for staff, and manage your expenditure adeptly.
Creating a culture of safety
Whilst one of the biggest benefits of implementing a quality and safety management system is to streamline audits to ensure you meet regulatory requirements, it also allows you to create a cohesive culture of safety. Having that culture of safety in place will assist you in longer-term staff retention, by including them in the creation of a safety-first ecosystem.
With a QMS (quality management system), information is no longer siloed and separate, and everyone including ground operations and flight crew is able to submit safety reports remotely, thereby increasing the accuracy and amount of safety reports. Additionally, a QMS gives management a far more comprehensive oversight of your operations allowing you to make better organizational decisions.
You can take a proactive instead of a reactive approach to safety management, creating bespoke safety and risk assessments. Create safety performance indicators and ensure all aspects of your organization is working in-line with your objectives.
Customer satisfaction is always a top priority, and getting great feedback isn’t just down to offering a complementary beverage or rewarding repeat flyers. The overall experience of flying is the most important factor. By using a QMS to create a safe and comfortable journey you begin to retain and build upon your customer base during these years of recovery.
By improving your operation performance, you’re identifying issues and risks earlier in order to prevent errors. So that means less delays, and less cancellations. You’re also fostering a culture of collaboration, where reporting can be delivered in real-time and acted upon, allowing customer feedback to be responded to and complaints to be resolved quicker, and with a lasting effect.
Finally, building your reputation for safety and quality will organically build your brand, cementing you as the customers number one choice for air travel. If they come with the expectation of quality, it’s easier to deliver quality.
If you’re operating on paper, you can’t effectively make data-driven decisions. First of all, you can’t guarantee that what is on paper is accurate or won’t be misinterpreted. Secondly, if you’re putting data into an excel spreadsheet, you’re relying on multiple people to continually update it and then for the data to be manipulated into pivot tables or graphs. Ultimately, it’s messy and ineffective. Using a QMS, data is being pulled through in real-time and automatically updated in your reporting tab. This allows you to make data driven decisions and gain insights as to how you can improve your performance.
Reducing your expenditures is a natural response to the difficulties that the aviation industry has experienced over the last few years. It’s something you’ve no doubt explored, looking at every avenue where you can reduce costs, but if you’ve not yet implemented a QMS, you’re missing an essential opportunity. With any software you buy, you’ve got the outright cost to consider. However, the money you will save in the short, and long term, far outweighs any operating cost.
Here are just a few benefits of a QMS that will help you to improve your processes:
- Streamline processes, cut administration time and send prompts to users so tasks are carried out with urgency
- Implement more cost-effective resource management processes
- Mitigate risks earlier, and save on the cost of reactive problem solving
- Standardize reporting across your organization, so you can spend more time analyzing the data and less time formatting reports
The future of the aviation industry undoubtedly looks bright since there is a huge appetite for travel after years of disruption. To combat the obstacles that are delaying full recovery, streamlining your processes and maximizing your output is essential if we are ever going to regain normality in the aviation industry.
Inland Group case study
Find out how the Inland Group created a culture of quality and safety with total operational transparency with the help of Ideagen.