Hope for heroes

4/2/2020

If we can keep our heads during the coronavirus crisis and focus on championing the crucial role of aviation in moving equipment, aid and life-saving medicines quickly then our industry’s reputation can rise to new heights says Wolfgang Fasching, Owner & MD at AGORA Consulting

“Times like these bring out the best and the worst in man,’ this saying has been vindicated in the last couple of weeks. So let us – the ground handling community – try to bring out the best of us.

What we are currently experiencing has been unprecedented and what will come is uncharted territory. But, this might bring unforeseen opportunities. It is the time for the unsung heroes: be it staff in supermarkets, pharmacies, healthcare or warehouses. Society wakes up to appreciate what they are doing for all of us.

Ground handling has been the unsung hero in aviation in the past. Now is the time and the opportunity to set this record straight. It is ground handling staff that are paramount in keeping those tiny streams in aviation that are still running, working. Although traffic volumes are at an unprecedented low the little that is left is still handled professionally by ground staff.

We must never forget that most of our staff have huge concerns. They are faced with redundancies or at least wage cuts. Nobody will know if and when their jobs that evaporate quickly will return. They will have to ask themselves if they want to return to the aviation industry after the crisis is over. As the Economist stated recently “A lot depends on the character of the ordinary people and that character is reflected in the way you go about your daily business – keeping calm and carry on, resisting the temptation to hoard or shirk.

But, is there any cause for optimism in aviation? I think there is! First of all we now see the merits of aviation. We must not forget that the recent past saw assaults on aviation due to its environmental footprint. Aviation found itself on the defensive and had problems in justifying its merits.

Now we see that it is aviation that brings people home efficiently and quickly. It is aviation that maintains what is left of the logistics chains that have become so essential. It is aviation that ships supplies in the shortest time possible. And herein lie the opportunities.

It will take a lot of time before passenger flows will start again and it will take even longer before they return to levels seen in the past. But, instead of leaving aircraft idle on the ground a lot of carriers have started to use them for cargo flights. Many airlines have started carrying emergency supplies. We should keep in mind that in ‘normal’ times around half of global air freight is carried in the bellies of passenger planes.

With seats emptied, the cabin is now available as well. And, we all know how cabin loads are handled. The fact that countries closed borders quickly and that the flow of freight on the road has become unpredictable brings opportunities to our industry. Those airlines and their managers that grasp these opportunities quickest will be able to mitigate the most severe consequences of this crisis.

And, if the general public starts to realise that their health supplies, masks, gloves and medicines are stuck at national borders, but safely flown into their nearest airports the perception of the merits of aviation will surely change.

But this needs careful, intelligent and sensitive marketing and PR. My hope is that our opinion leaders will understand what is needed now and act accordingly.

For the smooth handling of these flights, it will be our ground handling community that will contribute to the success of this endeavour. It is my big hope that in the future we will not be seen as a pure cost factor, but an integral part in the logistics chain and that we can build on our unsung hero status.

So, let us stay optimistic. Let us support our staff and stay upright. But most of all, let us stay healthy by sticking to the current rules. We can be role models and thereby bring out the best of us.”