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Should we let the aviation industry die? The benefits of air travel are obvious, but we have massively underestimated the costs

Is the era of mass air travel over? Credit: Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto/ Getty

Is the era of mass air travel over? Credit: Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto/ Getty


May 18, 2020   7 mins

After the lockdown, the bailouts. Crisis-hit industries already have their begging bowls out — and governments are frantically working out how much to give them and what to ask for in return.

In most cases ministers have no choice but to do what it takes. If they let, say, Transport for London go down the tubes, there’ll be no return to normality.

But there’s one industry where the question isn’t “how do we save it?”, but “can we save it?” and even “should we save it?”

That industry is the great enabler of the global economy: aviation.

Can we imagine a world without mass air travel? Well, you don’t have to — just look out the window. Or at one of those flight tracker websites. Even around cities like London the skies are almost clear, the airports all but deserted, airlines operating at a tiny fraction of their capacity.

But that’s temporary, right? Aviation might be one of the last industries to recover, but it’s not like the aeroplanes have all crashed. The supporting infrastructure is intact. The industry has everything it needs to get off the ground again — everything but enough money, and that’s something the state can provide.

After all, there’s more than the economy at stake here. Safe and affordable air travel is one of the great signifiers of modernity. More than any other, this is the technological advance that delineates our era from the plodding, earthbound, black-and-white world that preceded it. To turn our backs on all of that, to regress to a less advanced stage in our development, well, that’s a textbook definition of civilisational decline.

When Radio 4’s In Our Time tackled the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century, Melvyn Bragg asked his guests whether the concept of ‘decline’ was still considered valid by contemporary scholars. After some academic umming-and-ahhing, it was Professor Charlotte Roueché who got to the point: hot-and-cold running water. The Romans had it throughout their empire, and then it was lost. For centuries. That’s your decline, right there.

Can we imagine something similar happening in our own day and age — the permanent loss of a ubiquitous technology? Needless to say, we discard technologies all the time — when they’re superseded by something better (or, at least, more convenient). Take recorded music, where we went from wax cylinders to shellac records to vinyl records to CDs to streaming (plus various other steps and detours in between). But occasionally we abandon a technology for which there’s no replacement. Something we used to be able to do just stops.

Older readers may remember the shoe-fitting fluoroscope (or, to use a rather unfortunate proprietary name, the Pedoscope). It’s purpose was to take the guess work out of shoe shopping. This is always a pain — and sometimes a permanent one if the shoes that felt fine in the shop turn out to be too tight or too loose.

But what if you could literally see through the shoe leather to see how good the fit is?  What if there were some sort of X-ray device that displayed an image of the shoe around the bones of your foot? Indeed, what if you could wiggle your phalanges and view them moving around inside their new confines? Sales assistants could be trained to make an objective assessment — allowing you to purchase with confidence.

It sounds futuristic, but this technology belongs to the past. Fluoroscopes were once a common sight in our shoe shops. Thousands of the devices were installed in the mid-20th century. Until, that is, people realised that the high street isn’t the best place for a boxful of radioactive isotopes (an X-ray machine needs an X-ray source). It was decided that pinched toes were preferable to radiation burns, and so that was the end of that.

There’s another, much grander, example from the mid-20th century: manned spaceflight beyond Earth orbit. It’s now 47 years since we last visited another world. And I don’t see plans for a return to the moon being a spending priority in the post-Covid era.

So, yes, even in the modern age, we sometimes take a technological step backwards because we can’t sustain the cost of progress.

Could the same apply to mass air travel? Aviation has had to take a step back before. Between the wars, there was a serious attempt to deliver commercial trans-Atlantic flights by airship. Tragically, it all came to grief with the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

Yet that was only a temporary reverse. After the Second World War, aeroplane technology would grow into the industry we know today. The world’s airlines now carry over four billion passengers every year (‘now’ meaning the last few years until 2020 happened).

That’s about eight trillion passenger-kilometers. Numbers have basically doubled over the last two decades, and are predicted to more than double again over the next twenty years. Certainly there’s plenty of potential for growth because only a fifth of the world’s population has ever flown. They seem keen to try, however. In Asia alone, it’s estimated that 100 million people fly for the first time time every year.

If you look at the modern technologies that have been set aside without replacement they are either trivial (like the Pedoscope) or experimental (like manned spaceflight). Mass air travel is clearly unlike either of those, which is why its loss seems so unimaginable.

And yet whether a technology is abandoned or not isn’t determined by the extent of its benefit, but by whether the benefits are outweighed by the costs.

Airlines have innovated to increase the affordability, if not the pleasantness, of air travel. They’ve pushed the limits of euclidean geometry (and human anatomy) to fit ever more seats into the same space. We may complain, but the industry knows we’re suckers for a cheap ride.

Covid-19 throws all of that into doubt. 

There’s no social distancing on a packed plane — not even if middle seats are left empty. With a typical seat pitch (the distance between the same point on each row) of about 75cm, keeping a two metre separation is impossible — and that’s without the sociopath in front of you reclining into your face.

The industry claims that there are other ways of keeping passengers safe. For instance, the filtration systems which continually clean the cabin air. Then again, just look at this simulation of how airborne droplets from a single sneeze spread around a plane. Grim.

No matter what adjustments are made on board, the fact is that to fly means spending several hours in a tin can with hundreds of strangers — and you don’t where they’ve been.

To persuade us of the safety of that, airlines will mainly be relying on what happens on the ground. From temperature scans to spit tests, screening procedures are a first line of defence in airports around the world. The already tiresome business of getting through an airport will get several times worse. For instance, read Laurel Chor’s account of what it takes to fly from London to Hong Kong. We’re talking about hours of extra delay — and not in a comfy airport lounge, but in some spartan, socially-distanced warehouse. And, of course, there’s always the risk that you’ll fail a check and be refused entry.

With that rigmarole in place, most trips — whether for business or pleasure — become untenable.

These controls are likely to last a lot longer than other aspects of the lockdown. In respect to international air travel, any relaxation depends on progress being made not just in the country in question, but globally.

It seems likely that hopes of widespread asymptomatic infection — and thus of achieving herd immunity — have been dashed. Most countries’ strategy for getting out of lockdown will be about suppressing transmission of the disease at home. As they get closer to that goal, efforts to prevent re-infection from abroad are likely to tighten not loosen.

The British government is now introducing a quarantine period for air passengers arriving in the UK. This would require them to self-isolate at a private residence for 14 days. Obviously, that rules out most business and holiday travel. The airlines aren’t happy — and they won’t have been consoled by some recent remarks by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock: “It’s unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible this summer.”

Indeed, governments are unlikely to let down their guard or consumers to regain their confidence until we’ve gone through the coming winter without a serious second wave of the disease. So, the big question for the airlines is what happens next summer.

Even if lockdown is lifted and borders re-open, how many of us will have the confidence — or the money — to fly abroad on holiday again? As for business travel, will we see an explosion of pent-up demand (from, say, personnel deployed to rebuild global supply chains) or an accelerated process of deglobalisation? We don’t know yet, because none of this has happened before.

We can be certain that demand will recover, but there’s no telling how rapidly or to what extent. With airlines already fragilised by debt and months of massively reduced revenues, there is a significant chance of an industry-wide meltdown.

In which case, what should governments do about it? Presumably, they won’t allow national flag carriers to collapse, but would it be sensible to bail-out or nationalise every airline? Not in the context of dramatically reduced demand. If there is a need for a general bail-out, then it can’t happen without a restructuring of the whole industry. And by ‘restructuring’, I mean downsizing.

Whatever happens, we need to ask what purpose aviation actually serves. This is a moment in history when we’re rethinking the case for globalisation, wrestling with the challenge of climate change, and reeling from the impact of pandemic disease. The question of whether mass air travel does more harm than good is now open and urgent.

A world where we radically restrict air travel is no longer unthinkable. The downside of hyper-connectivity, of millions of people hurtling around the planet at every moment, is no longer theoretical. Aviation did not create Covid-19, but it did turn a local outbreak into a global catastrophe. Unrestricted aviation is the great multiplier of pandemic risk — and that can’t be ignored anymore.

Aviation policy cannot go on as if none of this has happened. There’s Heathrow expansion, for instance, the business case for which now lies in tatters. Though a major asset, Heathrow is also a liability, a vast generator of congestion and pollution lodged in the side of our most populous city. The idea that we’d make it bigger is not just absurd, but grotesque.

Boris was right for the wrong reason, we need to move our main airport to a coastal location — but to provide room for containment, not expansion. Protection against future pandemics depends on the ability to close our borders as and when required. Ports, airports and logistical hubs need to be designed around this objective — incorporating the facilities required for advanced border control, mass medical testing and, if necessary, the quarantine of returning travellers.

As devastating as this pandemic has been, we need to remember it could have been worse — and that there’s absolutely no guarantee that the next one won’t be. But I wonder whether we’ve really learned our lesson.

We’ve been taught to despise humility, to disregard our limits. Like Jesus tempted by Satan in the wilderness, we’ve been taken to a high place and shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour”. We’ve come to believe that they belong to us, that they must lie within our grasp.

But we live a different world now and for most of us that means a smaller world. Because that’s what happens when we overreach.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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dev1.assettrac
dev1.assettrac
4 years ago

I know what you’re getting at but you are very mistaken in my opinion.

For example, the Hindenburg was a prototype service, it hadn’t become embedded in our culture. Now, air travel is like a utility, a human right even, it has become so much part of our culture that it’s not going to just roll over and die. It may shrink, for a while and consolidate but it will be back.

Besides, it has brought immeasurable benefits to human beings and a freedom that we have always yearned for at the most basic level since we grew legs to walk with.

Besides, am I supposed to never see the other half of my family now? They live abroad, a long way abroad, so I’m now expected to just shrug and put up with never seeing my mother again?

And if anyone thinks a UK holiday will ever get anywhere near as enjoyable for many ordinary working class people as a week on a sparsely populated Greek island they’re very much mistaken. And there is no substitute for actually visiting a place to learn about it as well as enjoy being there.

And what about meeting people from around the world? Isn’t that a good thing? To promote tolerance, understanding and friendship? And are we to expect that somewhere like Greece should just slip back into the agrarian poverty it had before mass tourism? I’m sure they’d love that! Many countries were unstable and a danger to their neighbours before boosting their economies with tourism.

But most importantly, this current mess is not the aviation industry’s fault. You might as well blame a dog for getting rabies. No, it’s certain ‘cultural practices’ which are as morally abhorrent as they are unclean. Instead of looking at letting the aviation industry die, we should be calling out those who created this latest crisis from their lack of care for animals, hygiene and even their fellow human beings. Address these problems, not use the aviation industry as a scapegoat. Find a vaccine, develop a cure, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We should call out these people, boycott their products, stop travelling to their countries, or pretending that it’s just another culture and that’s just the way they do things.

The idea that we should stop foreign travel because of someone else’s questionable cultural tastes is ridiculous and it won’t happen.

Where will it stop? Not just for foreign travel that’s for sure. Already rural folk are hostile to ‘townies’, people are scared to go back to work or school or use public transport – fears and divisions all within the same country. Maybe we should continue with the lockdown forever? At least no one would die from travelling! While we’re at it, why don’t we limit the speed of motor vehicles to 20mph. No one would die in traffic accidents either!

Please, this article appears superficially plausible but it is not.

Foreign travel by air is here to stay and if there are problems with it, we fix them, not deprive ourselves of a basic and perfectly natural desire to travel around the world whenever we wish.

People fought and died for that right, among many others and to even think about simply getting rid of it because we’re too bloody lazy-minded to work out ways of preserving it does no justice to all those who struggled to make it such a ubiquitous freedom for millions of ordinary people.

Anyway, re: all those millions of first-time flyers in Asia, think those countries will put up with staying at home now they’ve had a taste? No chance.We may very well allow Heathrow and Gatwick to wither and die, but Beijing, Seoul or Mumbai will happily take up the slack. And more fool us!

Bill Gaffney
Bill Gaffney
4 years ago

BravoSierra. It’s the same old world. The Karens and Chads are Chicken Littles. I have lived through the threat of nuclear annihilation, wars, pestilence (several viruses and other diseases that were going to kill me and everyone else) and so far this ChiComXiWuhanBatEating Flu. In the 70’s we were all going to have to move closer to the Equator due to an ice age (which is probably more likely than the BravoSierra that Al Gore and that wee, ignorant child from Sweden spew). Now we are going to burn up due to the planet getting hot. Horse Apples! When you have lived a while Boyo you will realize that certainty is uncertain, with the exception of death. You, me, all are going to, at some point expire. You strike me as a Greenie. Therefore I am sure you walk every where you go. Live in a tent. Don’t use heat or cooling systems. Go naked and eat grass and bark. There is no “new normal”. There just is.

David Lawler
David Lawler
4 years ago

You might want to spare a though for the millions of people who will lose their jobs if the aviation industry dies.

This sounds like the I’m alright Jack attitude most commonly found in the Guardian.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago
Reply to  David Lawler

Quite. The ‘climate change’ never seem to care about minutiae such as people’s lives.

Nigel Blumenthal
Nigel Blumenthal
4 years ago
Reply to  David Lawler

And your response sounds like the whiny moaning that usually comes from people who can’t see the wood for the trees. Yes, people will lose jobs, but more, and different, jobs will be created, which will require retraining and probably government subsidy for the first little while. But that’s what progress is all about. When the government abolished the need for the job, all the men who used to have to walk in front of cars with red flags were also out of work.

Jerry W
Jerry W
4 years ago

It is perfectly clear from Flightradar and similar apps that the skies are far from clear. They are just a bit less crowded. Half the stuff in your local supermarket came in by air..

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
4 years ago

IMO it would be unwise for the airline industry to rely on “too big to fail” as a means of getting bailout cash.
Despite the fact that air travel is by far the safest form of travel in terms of accidents the industry has some issues to deal with including but not limited to:
A wobbly customer service record highlighted by using the “it wasn’t our fault” excuse to avoid refunding tickets for cancelled flights.
Air and Noise pollution activists have never been happier.
Business travel butters the bread for most airlines but the lock-down will surely change that as corporate fliers re-think their needs while enjoying the reduced travel costs.
Many traditional tourist hotspots have been trying to address ‘over-tourism’ especially since the massive increase in arrivals from the emerging Asia market.
There’ll never be a better opportunity for the anti-tourism lobby to get some controls and limits established.

And if governments do agree to some sort of loan arrangement they should insist that real solutions to customer service issues be part of the deal.

Will D. Mann
Will D. Mann
4 years ago

Even in the wealthy countries 70% of us never take a flight from one year to the next. Now most business contacts and relatives can be seen face to face via zoom and Skype there is no real need for most air travel. Those who wish to experience other countries and cultures can revert to back packing and overland trips, (we still have inter rail)

Personally I am enjoying the first spring since longer than I can remember with peace, quiet, birdsong and a sky completely clear of vapour trails.

John K
John K
4 years ago

As regards Heathrow, there are lots of hotels which can be pulled into the airside cordon for use as quarantine and testing hubs, also for pre-screening of passengers before being take to the gate. I can see a period when you have to turn up at the airport many hours or even the day before the flight and be tested.

Neil John
Neil John
4 years ago
Reply to  John K

That’s what should have happened with all those ‘repatriated’ ‘British Citizens’ from around the world, hard enforced quarantine not the wishy-washy 14 days self isolation nonsense that many haven’t followed…

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
4 years ago

And the knock-on effects will be no more international sport or touring musicians (rock, classical and everything in between). Do you want that too?

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
4 years ago

There are many good arguments in favour of aviation. That must be the very bottom of the list. People becoming more interested in local sport and gigs would be extremely beneficial for everyone. Many small local bands put on a much better show than international mega-groups, and they really need the support.

Andrew Meffan
Andrew Meffan
4 years ago

X Rays are produced by bombarding a lead target with electrons. No radioactive isotopes – just an electric power supply and an X Ray tube.
They’re still dangerous but only when the current is flowing.

jeremynash147
jeremynash147
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Meffan

But it was such fun the look at you foot through it!

Peter Watson
Peter Watson
4 years ago

It would not trouble me in the least if air travel were consigned to private hire and escape days as the day trips to Colwyn Bay or Southend on the trains once enticed people. I have flown more than I care to remember and that includes the memorable year of 2011 when I took 67 flights which placed me in parts of the world as distant from each other as Rio, India (twice), Korea and Vancouver. It took me three months to unscramble my body clock. What a different world from my first step on an airplane in 1962 when the Class was allowed to go to O’Hare and board a Delta 707 to see what a plane was like. What a difference a first class flight to Beijing is to the first transatlantic flight on a BOAC 707 with stops for fuel in Cork and Boston en route to Chicago.
But having a world where looking after the environment in a simple way (using Zoom Meetings) can have a very positive effect on both the best use of time and the reduction in the use of fuel and having used Zoom more and more during these past weeks, I honestly wouldn’t mind if I never saw the inside of an aircraft again. I am old enough to have made multiple transatlantic crossings by boat. Cunard and the Empress Liners of Canadian Pacific, and sailed across on a Schooner in the heady days of the 1970s. Travel by boat, unless one is emigrating (I did) is too difficult these days but perhaps a return to ocean voyaging would be fun.
I have no belief that air travel will cease. It will become less frequent, more expensive and more inconvenient as various States implement the global control methods of the 21st Century biological equivalent of the Orwellian Panopticon. Some airlines simply deserve to be eliminated. Perhaps the Government, always keen to “help” will consider issuing travel permits. After all that is how Passports came about and look what fun they cause as we have now retinal scans to ensure the safety of our “keeprs”.
So let airlines die and air travel move into the past as has the Victorian practice of murdering and stuffing every living creature as they held the belief that nature would never “run out” of itself.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Peter Watson

Deja vu?

charles scaife
charles scaife
4 years ago
Reply to  Peter Watson

what a great feat of China to ruin western aircraft makers and cripple airlines as part of it,s world dominance plan. The west needs to retain aircraft production and competing manufacturers to ensure new aircraft are developed.
Some airlines such a Virgin operated as poachers letting others train pilots etc and develop routes before buying older 747s tarting them up and undercutting others. in this new world there economic value is zilch . Probably why there main shareholder s Delta,KLM have not been rushing to bail them out.
The EU is allowing Lufthansa & Air France KLM to receive massive state aid grants plus allowing them to not pay refunds to instead hand out vouchers against future flights.
So they can undercut responsible airlines like BA & Ryanair who had money in the bank when covid started.
We all love travel to sunny places however most of us will no doubt ” Wait and see ” for the next 6-9 months at least.
Maybe this will be the opportunity for Blackpool to once again become a premier holiday resort. With of course self distancing donkeys .

John K
John K
4 years ago

The question is then what we do with all the spare jet planes.

I had already decided I wasn’t going to fly on a 737 MAX as the design is inherently unsafe. But what about all the other Boeing and Airbus planes half built or surplus to requirements. Why oh why did Boeing restart production when the planes will be parked indefinitely if not for ever.

I don’t have any shares in either company, but if I did I’d sell them fast.

And much as I loathe Stelios, he surely has a point about the current EasyJet order. I imagine they will be able to cancel, reschedule or renegotiate this order with a better outcome for the company’s bottom line, at the expense of Airbus’.

Also I doubt if many 4 engine planes other that Emirate’s fleet of A380s will be needed. Bye-bye Jumbo Jet and A340, some can be turned into cargo planes but what about the rest?

Neil John
Neil John
4 years ago

Having flown to the Channel Islands once, Canada to visit friends once and Italy for a holiday once, at the age of 60 I was looking forward to a few more flights, if it doesn’t happen I can live with it, but for many younger people who’ve flown more for holidays it’s going to harder.

Similarly for Academics for whom the conference season is a chance to fly to exotic places, share their genetic information and add on a few days of cheap holiday as the airfare’s already paid for, they are going to find it very hard… What a shame.

Derek Emery
Derek Emery
4 years ago

Experts reckon this virus will be around from now on.
If a vaccine cannot be found planes will be affected the most because flight economics require customers to be squeezed in like sardines in a tin..
The only hope is other advances though science that mitigate the risks if no vaccine is possible, or new treatments that halt the disease.

Copper surfaces kill viruses etc in a few minutes so there is scope for new materials to be invented that reduce risks from touching surfaces. Necessity is the mother of invention and will apply to Covid-13.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
4 years ago

The aviation industry will survive. It already had over capacity which is why airlines were going bust before Covid. Yes it is going to take a battering and take 2 or more years to recover and probably won’t get back to where it was for a decade, but it will survive. Once the loss leaders to tempt us back are withdrawn air travel will probably be more expensive than it was. The industry related to the airline industry which is in real trouble are the aircraft manufacturers – there will be lots of perfectly good planes mothballed for a good while – who really needs to buy new passenger planes in the next 5-10 years? Aircraft manufacturing is not something you can just mothball then turn back on again quickly.

The section of tourism industry that will be hardest hit will be the cruise industry. It too will survive, but at a greatly reduced level and will take much longer to recover. Again it will be the ship builders who may take a fatal blow.

Nigel Blumenthal
Nigel Blumenthal
4 years ago

This is an interesting and thought-provoking article but, in common with many such at the moment, it only goes part way.

Let’s look at the cost of air travel, and compare it to average pay. Average wage rates have risen somewhere about 30-35% since 2004. We travelled from Toronto to London, UK, in 2004, and paid about $860 each for the tickets. If the cost of the travel had kept up with average wages, those tickets would be around $1,160 now. But the last time I flew that route, in November 2019, my ticket was only $770, and that sum included a vastly increased tax and fee cost.

2004 is not very long ago – I only chose it because it’s as far back as my computer files go – but it’s clear that the cost of airline travel has not kept pace with inflation, and the resulting volume of travel demand is a huge encouragement to new entrants to the airline industry. Companies come and go all the time, especially in an active economy, and there’s no reason why the structure of the industry as it is now should be sacred, and therefore worthy of massive public bailouts.

To take another example, when the automobile was starting to become popular and widespread, thousands of people in other jobs were made redundant. Horses had been a significant mode of travel but, as the auto took over, they were slaughtered in their thousands, stables were closed, ostlers and farriers had to find new jobs, and so on. It’s quite likely that there was pressure from the trades for government support for those industries then too.

As society changes over the years, the economy changes along with it, and people adapt and survive. Air travel has all sorts of hidden costs that we ignore; infrastructure at airports, transportation systems to bring passengers to airports and take them home again, and massive environmental pollution are only a few. If we were to have to pay the full economic cost of air travel, for example, you can bet that there would be a lot fewer flights. We can now ask ourselves if that flight was really necessary; I suspect you know that most answers would be “no”.

There are huge changes that can, and probably should, happen as a result of a fundamental societal reshaping that must be done if our scientists, whose models seem to be ruling at the moment, are to be believed. On the other hand, we could all go back to life as it was, and wait and see what effect that will have on the population of our world. Either way, the changes will be huge.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
4 years ago

Looking at the sky and the noticeable lack of con trails, I am also struck by how good the weather is. After 911 meteorologists observed a sudden change in temperatures. We are clearly seeing something of the same. Of course it is a double edged sword. Air travel uses huge amounts of carbon fuel that adds to warming yet also creates high level clouds that cool the atmosphere.

Then there is the effect on culture. Lets face it, a four star hotel is much the same all across the world these days. The only difference is the landscape outside.

International travel has homogenised once separate cultures into one amorphous blancmange of sameness. Travel to China to visit the Forbidden City and eat at a Mac Donalds. All you come home with is a photograph and possibly some exotic virus to spread.

I will not miss it if it becomes very much constrained.

Anthony Plant
Anthony Plant
4 years ago

Why not a flight quota system attached to the passport allowing only a few flights per year. If quota could be bought and sold (like entitlements to farming subsidies) any unused quota, for whatever reason, could then be sold on to those wishing to fly more. A subtle ‘leveling out’ process?

slorter
slorter
4 years ago

After the lockdown, the bailouts. Crisis-hit industries already have their begging bowls out ” and governments are frantically working out how much to give them and what to ask for in return.
if you’re going to bail you should take a permanent equity stick not a controlling stake this is no nationalisation

If we need to save these companies because they are worthy companies , if we are going to provide the safety net’ the government should get the upside on the way out.

So if we are going to take 1/3 of the shares of let’s say American Airlines, we should put them into equivalent of a sovereign wealth fund, no political control, passive manager, give them the liquidity that they need and then when they start flying again guess what.

Those shares go up in value and that dividend can go to the whole public who after all we are the ones who were bailing them out!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago

A most insightful piece that asks many pertinent questions.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s flying was great fun. My particular favourite was the Comet 4B of the late British European Airways (BEA).
However it was comparatively expensive, but this did make it rewardingly exclusive.
Perhaps it will be so again?

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

So flying only for the rich and two fingers to the less well off then?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

Yes!
It was ever thus.
Or, as the Chinese say “tough”.

Peter Watson
Peter Watson
4 years ago

It would not trouble me in the least if air travel were consigned to private hire and escape days as the day trips to Colwyn Bay or Southend on the trains once enticed people. I have flown more than I care to remember and that includes the memorable year of 2011 when I took 67 flights which placed me in parts of the world as distant from each other as Rio, India (twice), Korea and Vancouver. It took me three months to unscramble my body clock. What a different world from my first step on an airplane in 1962 when the Class was allowed to go to O’Hare and board a Delta 707 to see what a plane was like. What a difference a first class flight to Beijing is to the first transatlantic flight on a BOAC 707 with stops for fuel in Cork and Boston en route to Chicago.
But having a world where looking after the environment in a simple way (using Zoom Meetings) can have a very positive effect on both the best use of time and the reduction in the use of fuel and having used Zoom more and more during these past weeks, I honestly wouldn’t mind if I never saw the inside of an aircraft again. I am old enough to have made multiple transatlantic crossings by boat. Cunard and the Empress Liners of Canadian Pacific, and sailed across on a Schooner in the heady days of the 1970s. Travel by boat, unless one is emigrating (I did) is too difficult these days but perhaps a return to ocean voyaging would be fun.

I have no belief that air travel will cease. It will however become less frequent, more expensive and more inconvenient as various States implement the global control methods of the 21st Century biological equivalent of the Orwellian Panopticon. Some airlines are so appalling they simply deserve to be eliminated. Perhaps the Government, always keen to “help”, will consider issuing travel permits. After all that is how Passports came about after a similar global disruption known as The War to End Wars, and look what fun they cause as we have now retinal scans to ensure the safety of our “keepers”.

So let airlines die and air travel move into the past as has the Victorian practice of murdering and stuffing every living creature as they held the belief that nature could never “run out” of itself.

Tris Torrance
Tris Torrance
4 years ago

I saw no mention of a vaccine, which would / will change attitudes to flying. And I saw no mention of the wealth spread the global tourist trade. To discuss discuss other aspects of aviation and the pandemic without bringing in these two doesn’t really make sense does it?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

All very well, but how on earth are all those musicians, Hollywood actors and politicians going to get about the globe in order to warn everyone about climate change?

Adi Dule
Adi Dule
3 years ago

I think a lot of people did have the confidence to fly to Spain, Greece, Croatia etc – Getting ill is and was a calculated risk for many and if you are careful the probability of getting ill is similar as when you go to the local pub. The only thing that cannot be forecasted are the governments quarantine rules (and i am not talking only about the UK government). Strange pandemic, most are more afraid of what the governments will do next as from the virus itself