A double whammy. Covid 19 and Brexit
Note: This article was written in March 2021
There is no doubt about it. The Covid 19 pandemic alone has inflicted the greatest damage on the global airline industry since it first started really developing since the Second World War, which ended some 75 years ago. One of the first casualties in the U.K. is illustrated by the picture on the header to this article - the Boeing 747 - which heralded in the means of affordable, (in economy class), long distance travel for millions of people across the world.
Not too long after the pandemic spread across the world, British Airways scrapped their 747 fleet, as did many other airines. Incredible! To a large extent this magnificent and majestic iconic airliner will probably soon remain as just a fond memory. I live under a main departure route from Heathrow for airliners departing to the north and east when those runways are being used, and the reduction in traffic has been dramatic during the past year.
Just how the airlines and airports are going to cope with this is yet to be seen of course, but without any doubt, a massive exercise in downscaling, with the resultant huge shedding of jobs in well under way. Even by August 2020 Terminal Four at Heathrow was closed. Will it ever re-open? Not in the forseeable future probably? It is perhaps not fully understood just how many people are effected, losing their jobs. The aircraft and their crews are just the 'tip of the iceberg' which is clearly visible.
Supporting this endeavour are many thousands of other once essential workers. The list is almost endless, but for example consider all the people working in the terminals, from ground staff on the aprons, to check-in staff, those working in the shops and cafes and restaurants, managing passenger traffic to the departure and arrival gates, supplying catering and so on.
The pandemic has been devastating.
Just how long these effects will last is just a guess. But, without much doubt it will be many years if ever (?), before the industry returns to its glory years seen up to 2019.
The full effects have yet to be seen of course, but already it is bad news. All of this was completely forseeable, nothing has changed in the last fifty years. If you are in the E.U. all the benefits are obvious. No border controls and their attendent costs of checks and Customs documentation. Even the Swiss, which I found hard to believe they ever would, had to open up their borders for free travel in order to trade with the E.U. But not for trucks and goods going in and out. The same applies to Norway.
One thing the supporters of Brexit never realised, was that once you have left a club, and no longer paying membership fees, is that you cannot go on insisting that free use of the facilities should be granted. Just because you were once a member.
One aspect is already clear, the attraction for many people in the E.U. to visit and indeed work in the U.K. have gone. And of course, the opposite appliies to U.K. citizens. Visas and short-term work permits are now the order of the day, for all 26 of the member States in the E.U. Automatic reciprocal Health Care arrangements have also been scrapped by and large. In so many ways we are now back to how things were some fifty years ago, when the British Empire had pretty much collapsed, the country was to all purposes bankrupt after WW2, and struggling to get back on its feet.
Without any doubt, the effects of Brexit has resulted in a great downturn in passenger traffic to the U.K. for the airlines serving the E.U.