Since March 2020, people have been flying several times less often than usual. Has the development of the air transportation industry stopped forever? Of course not. New conditions beg to take a fresh look at the prospects for further development, to assess the emerging threats and opening windows of opportunity. TSI has invited the leading experts of Latvia’s aviation industry to discuss the most pressing issues of air transportation development.
Experts, who shared their vision of the medium-term perspective on air transportation development:
- Ivars Pavasars, Head of the Training Center at Riga International Airport, a lecturer at TSI professional master’s study programme “Aviation Management”
- Arturs Savelievs, the board member of Riga International Airport, a lecturer at TSI professional master’s study programme “Aviation Management”
- Arturs Kokars, board member of the Latvian Aviation Association, a lecturer at TSI professional master’s study programme “Aviation Management”
- Aleksej Ogorodnikov, Head of IT at SmartLynx Airlines, Latvia
– Today, we are witnessing the worst crisis in civil aviation since World War II. What advice would you give to students considering studying for a master’s degree under the “Aviation Management” programme at TSI, Latvia?
I. Pavasars: Latvia’s aviation industry is already making forecasts for the recovery of the industry. According to experts of Riga International Airport, the restoration of the industry will begin in Europe from the 2-4th quarter of the next year, 2021. In aviation, again there will be a demand for highly skilled personnel, including managerial.
A. Savelievs: Despite the very turbulent times the Aviation industry is currently facing, air travel will remain the foundation of global connectivity — and one of the most important pillars of the global economy. Moreover, the experts foresee that after the pandemics the aviation industry will not only recover from the current difficulties but will experience a very fast and continuous development, thus regaining the status of one of the fastest growing industries worldwide. I am convinced that studying Aviation Management is a good investment for students to prepare for future demand when aviation is back on track.
A. Ogorodnikov: Undoubtedly, the current crisis is unprecedented for the world aviation industry since the Second World War. The number of commercial passenger planes caught in the long term is in the tens of thousands. Wide-body aviation is experiencing particularly heavy losses. However, as after all previous crises, the recovery phase is bound to follow after the current crisis. Different experts refer to different terms, the majority leans to the fact that by the summer of 2021 the industry will win back most of the pre-crisis turnover, followed by the excess over the next few years.
– That is a rather optimistic forecast. What’s the basis for it? So far, Latvian aviation experts have agreed only that the industry has been very affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, turnover has fallen by 70% compared to last year.
I. Pavasars: Yes, Latvian air transport ends the year in a deep minus, we have witnessed not only an unprecedented drop in turnover but also mass layoffs from airlines and Riga airport. All the more joyful we were to hear about the realistic timing of the start of vaccination in Europe. According to the latest information, the vaccine will be delivered to Latvia at the end of this year, 2020. Vaccination will continue in the 1st quarter of 2021. Thus, the air service gets every chance of recovery from the summer of 2021.
A. Ogorodnikov: The vaccine will definitely help in the medium and long term. The whole history of medicine is an example of this. However, even now aviation can become one of the safest stages in travel, introducing instant tests or checks at airports, as well as integrating with passenger health verification systems (electronic platforms).
A. Savelievs: When the vaccine is ready, it will take some time to vaccinate the population all over the world and to get back to a normal situation. Currently, it is difficult to predict the exact timeframe for that. However, as before when facing challenges, the Aviation industry has always been able to adapt to the new circumstances, especially in terms of implementing new security measures to address the new security threats. The same is true regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Aviation industry is not only waiting for the vaccine, it is actively finding new solutions to maintain air travel as the safest way to travel. And these measures are not only implemented to prevent passengers from getting sick while traveling but also to prevent the spreading of the virus via air travel. The COVID-19 testing before the flight and after arrival is an excellent example of how to significantly reduce the virus transfer risks — already proven very effective in various destinations where implemented. In Europe, such EU level testing protocol is currently under development by EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and hopefully, it will be adopted by all EU member states very soon. Hopefully, it will put aviation back on track even before the worldwide vaccination. By the way, most of the vaccines are forecasted to be distributed by air, therefore the demand for air cargo services will be very high.
– Is that why it is worth starting to study at the master’s programme “Aviation Management” now?
A. Kokars: The management of the aviation sector in all segments of activity involves the management of complex infrastructure and the use of the latest technologies with a view to ensuring the highest safety standards and achieving the profitability of companies in difficult competitive conditions. Although the aviation sector has been hit hard by COVID-19 and will take several years to rebuild, the industry still lacks qualified specialists and managers. The professional master’s programme “Aviation Management” provides an opportunity to acquire the knowledge necessary for industry leaders, middle and senior managers. It should be stressed that this programme is particularly valuable for young professionals who already work in the aviation sector and intend to link their future careers to aviation. Understanding processes, interactions between carriers and infrastructure operators, as well as working with aviation customers and suppliers, these are the skills that can be learned in this curriculum.
A. Ogorodnikov: The “Aviation Management” course lasts about two years. This means that by the time of graduation young professionals enter the already restored industry. As the head of the airline’s IT department, I see that after the crisis in aviation management, professionals from related fields will be in demand. So to speak, “at the junction” and with fresh views and approaches. “The old guard” will no longer be able to live the old way. It will be necessary to create new products and services.
I would like to motivate especially professionals from other fields to enter the study programme: Marketing, Law, MBA and of course from IT. One of the new areas could be the creation of new IT products (platforms) – using different aviation services or their combination with other logistics, transport, training or any other additional services. It will be important for airlines to increase profitability from each seat sold while ensuring all safety requirements. For example, the development of electronic passenger registration channels (online check-in) is already seen in integration with passenger health check systems.
I. Pavasars: Training takes two years. By the time the program is over and the master’s degree in aviation management is obtained, we predict that aviation in Europe will be reaching the pre-crisis level. And, of course, the industry will need new personnel with fresh knowledge. Young professionals who have just graduated will not have a load of experience “as it should be, as we did before”. They will look at the situation in post-Covid aviation with a fresh eye, and we expect new, bold decisions from them!