Glimmers of Hope/Purveyors of Doom by JOY FINNEGAN

United Airlines announced it is adding 25,000 flights back into their schedule in August. JetBlue and American Airlines announced a strategic partnership that they say “will create seamless connectivity for travelers in the Northeast” and more choice. They also hope the relationship will accelerate each airline’s recovery as the travel industry adapts to the new normal of life and travel during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, industry insiders say American sent out WARN notices to more than 24,000 employees including 3200 in maintenance and maintenance-related positions. A WARN notice is a requirement of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988, a U. S. labor law which protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees, as defined in the Act. Other airlines had already sent the notice.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian called the effects of the coronavirus on their airline “staggering” and then announced that the airline will shave its workforce by 20 percent through buyouts and early retirements. That effort will reduce their workforce by 17,000. Most of the airlines are offering these early buyouts. Even so, Bastian said that will not be enough. Delta had a $5.7 billion loss from April to June. He also said it was “the worst quarter…in this company’s history.” Compare that to Delta’s second-quarter operating revenue last year: $12.5 billion.

Still and all, we want to travel. Anecdotally, many have told me how eager they are to get back in the skies to begin exploring new destinations. I’m sure you have heard the same thing. Vacations, family visits and work are on hold but that just creates pent up demand. “Americans want to travel,” says Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of Public Affairs and Policy. “They miss the experiences and connections that travel creates. But travelers also want to see rigorous and conspicuous health measures in place, which is yet another reason why the wearing of masks needs to be widely embraced: restoring confidence in the ability to travel is part and parcel of an economic recovery.”

As we went to press British Airways announced they would retire their entire B747 fleet. It was in the works and would have been done by 2024 anyway, but the travel numbers forced their hand.

The business jet travel market is fairing somewhat better. However, it’s not completely rosy in that arena either. An Argus white paper says the worst month for flight activity prior to the pandemic was “February 2009 which was the bottom month for the Great Recession.” The white paper goes on to say, “Unfortunately, March, April, and May 2020 have all seen worse traffic numbers than February 2009.” The good news is that bizjet operations have ticked up in May and June. And the report says if the August forecast holds, “We will see approximately 225,000 business aviation flights in North America for the month. That is off from the 2019 monthly average of 260,000 but it would represent a 300 percent increase from our April low of 74,771 flights.”

It is truly hard to know how this will go. I see glimmers of hope. But I also see the COVID-19 numbers and the surges in some states. I see folks refusing to wear masks, even though other countries have clearly shown the correlation between capping the spread of the disease and wearing masks. We are stubborn, prideful people in the U. S. – rebels if you will – and it is hard to contain a disease if stubborn people aren’t willing to submit a little to this effort. Mixed messages from Washington aren’t helping. In any case, here’s hoping you stay well and that we are all back in the air soon.

Moving on…please enjoy this issue of Aviation Maintenance. We have looked around the globe to see how things are going in numerous areas of our industry. First, we have our Euro MRO update. We spoke with major MRO providers in Europe to learn how they are surviving in the midst of the pandemic. See that story on page 16.

Next we dared to ask about the shortage of qualified technicians that has been at the forefront of the industry for a couple of years now. We thought surely everyone would say this is not a concern with the pandemic’s impact. However, we were surprised at the responses. Even with potential layoffs and furloughs, many believe there is still need for concern. Read what industry leaders think is going to happen starting on page 24.

The modification of business jets is big business. Having worked for two bizjet manufacturers, I have seen it firsthand. We used to say there was nothing we couldn’t do to a bizjet with the right amount of money and time. We wanted to see what interesting mods shops have been installing recently. Find out on page 32.

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