2020: The Tumultuous Three Months

By Ankur Deo | March 19, 2020

2019 was a momentous year for aviation. We saw giants like Thomas Cook, Jet Airways and Wow Air wrap their businesses. We saw the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes, which ultimately led to the indefinite grounding of Boeing 737 MAX. On the optimistic side of business, Project Sunrise test flights took off and possibility of ultra-long haul flights seemed a reality and the world’s best airport, the Singapore Changi Airport, got better! From Beijing to Berlin, new airports welcomed tons of aircraft and passengers. Smaller electric planes showed their potential and the mammoth Airbus A380 saw its last year of production! Like we said, 2019 was indeed a momentous year for aviation!

Qantas Completed Project Sunrise Test Flights ©tailwindsandtouchdowns

2020, on the other hand, has been more tumultuous than eventful! ‘Internationalisation’ was speculated to be the crux of aviation this year. More airlines were expected to connect more places and more people were speculated to pay less to travel more safely. And that’s where reality kicked in. First, Boeing showed red flags when it announced the intentions to ask for a $10b loan to cover up the losses and liabilities caused by the 737MAX debacle. Later, more issues regarding the MAX were brought into limelight as wiring flaws were detected and Foreign Object Debris (FOD) was seen in the fuel tanks of the stored aircraft. As the roadmap changed, the design and plan for NMA too was discarded.

The crashes of Ukraine International Airways flight PS752 after it took off from Tehran International Airport, Pegasus Airways flight PC2193 after it landed in Istanbul International Airport and the crash of the helicopter ferrying Kobe Bryant and his daughter put aviation in dismay. And now, the Coronavirus scares to bankrupt most airlines by May 2020, according to several aviation experts, unless governments pitch in to help the industry. And with all said and done, we are just in the third month of the year.

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft stored at Boeing facility, Everett. ©Bloomberg

While we started 2020 on a high note, it has now become a game of survival, let aside flourishing. With giants like Boeing, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific which once dominated the market literally hanging by a thread, one can understand the acuteness of the situation. While Asian aviation has severely taken a hit, the European, Middle-eastern and American aviation industry are now drawing their way south, without any signs of upheaval. The coronavirus pandemic dented an already struggling industry when it least needed more deterrents!

While we did see some positivity like the Boeing 777x take off for the first time and the massive orders for Airbus A321XLR, the disavowal associated with the final nail in the coffin for Flybe, the dismal state of Air India and South African, and uncertain future for HNA Groups’ Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines simply mark 2020 as perhaps one of the worst years for aviation! And as we said earlier, we are still in just the third month of the year….

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