Issue No. 846
Airlines' Long Covid
Staffing Problems May Linger After the Pandemic Recedes
Pushing Back: Inside The Issue
Airlines around the world are looking past the pandemic to a future in which Covid-19 may be endemic. But just as with some people who contract the disease, the effects of Covid may last longer than the initial shock. One way that is coming into focus is in staffing. In the U.S. pilot shortages are becoming acute for the regional carriers. Elsewhere, tight labor markets and the "Great Resignation" — or people quitting jobs or unwilling to go back into the workforce — are complicating airlines' and aerospace companies' ability to hire. In response, airlines are trimming schedules and cutting flights, and the airframers' suppliers are struggling to find workers, calling into question Airbus's ambitious production targets. The Omicron variant has done nothing to help matters.
By the time you read this and if you're based in the U.S., you could either have super-fast mobile Internet access and snarled flights, or you could have slower mobile Internet and on-time flights. It's very unlikely that you'll have both. The wireless industry and its regulator, and the aviation sector and its regulator are engaged in pitched battle over the roll out of 5G wireless networks. A two-week delay to allow the Federal Aviation Administration time to identify airports where 5G might interfere with radio altimeters yielded news no one wanted. FAA issued 1,500 notices on approaches that could be impaired, affecting 90 airports, or all of the major airline markets in the country. We'll know by January 19 which of the two scenarios above will play out.
Meanwhile, Airbus had a banner year of deliveries (for the pandemic, that is), delivering almost double the number of aircraft Boeing did. And speaking of Boeing, it risks losing market share unless it can design and build an aircraft for the middle of the market, which the Airbus A321 currently is walking away with.
Almost lost in all this was that fourth-quarter and full-year earnings season started, kicked off last week by Delta Air Lines. The carrier lost more than $400 million in the quarter, a result it didn't want to see but one that can be blamed on Omicron, bad weather, and a terrible holiday season for all airlines. The earnings fun continues next week. Stay tuned.
The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast
Airbus and Boeing have split the commercial aircraft market for a while, but analysts say Boeing could become the junior partner if it doesn't come up with something for the middle of the market. Hosts Madhu Unnikrishnan and Edward "Ned" Russell chew on Boeing's options and discuss Airbus's rather good 2021. Listen to the episode. The 'Lounge's full archive is here.