COVID-19 affects aviation students, airline industry

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Colbe Wells

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Max Lewton and Max Lewton

 

With the number of coronavirus cases rising every day and global travel restrictions, the airline industry is taking a huge hit economically. 

Many airlines have been struggling to stay busy during the pandemic, as few people are traveling via plane. With the lack of fliers, many airlines are facing bankruptcy, and some have already filed. This forces the airlines to temporarily or permanently lay off many of their employees and ground many of their jets due to lack of demand. 

An article from The Washington Post stated that Aireon, an aviation tracking company, tracked 37,826 jets in the air on Nov. 5, and this past Tuesday tracked only 26,217. This is almost a 31% decrease of air travel and forces many airlines to essentially shut down. 

Ken Dosen, a Global Trip Planner for FlexJet, is one of the many employees who were forced out of a job temporarily. 

“We have grounded most of our planes and a majority of the pilots have been told to take a month off,” Dosen said. “FlexJet asked employees to take a salary deferral which is where they take a percentage of our pay. I am pretty sure that my job is safe, but no one knows what’s going to happen.” 

Dosen also spoke about how the new international policies that countries are enforcing make travel very difficult for them. 

“In the beginning, countries were just asking pilots how long they would be staying, but as it got worse, they began to ask for travel history from the past 2-3 weeks,” he said. “They could deny flights even based on a pilot’s citizenship ⁠— there were a lot of variables that go into international flights now.” 

FlexJet is just one of many other airlines making cuts and halting business. Airlines that are still in business have flights that are only 20-30% full, and according to the International Air Transportation Association, they project the industry will lose $252 billion in revenue in 2020. What really hurts airlines are the travel restrictions that the United States has put on 28 European nations, and strict procedures pilots and passengers have to follow in order to fly internationally. 

With the lack of business, many airlines are starting to retire older model planes and downsizing on newer models in an attempt to save money. The Washington Post stated that American airlines will retire its Boeing 767 and 757s and Delta will retire its McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s.

 Even aviation centers such as the BGSU Flight Center are affected by the pandemic. The Flight Center has shut down completely, laying off all flight instructors until they open back up. 

Jake Morris, Flight Instructor at the BGSU Flight Center, believes that it will take a while for the industry to get back to where it was. 

“I think that the airlines will all be up and running again in a few months, but it will take at least a year to get it back to where it was before the virus,” Morris said. “It has been tough for me because the Flight Center will not open back up until May 1 and I am out of a job right now.” 

The closing of the Flight Center has not only affected their employees, as the students of the university are not able to complete their courses. This can really throw a curve in graduation plans for older students or students who are behind on credits. 

BGSU Aviation student Larry Keba is a senior at the university, but with the closing of the Flight Center, he will not be able to graduate until next summer. 

“I actually was on pace to graduate by the end of this summer, but now it is not looking until next summer is when I will be completely done,” Keba said.

It is an unfair turn of events for a lot of people who are associated with the industry. Keba also said he couldn’t even get a job at the airport he used to work at due to the lack of business. The uncertainty of what the future holds for all these pilots and other employees seems to be their biggest concern at the end of the day. 

With no certain ending in sight for the virus, airlines everywhere say they will have to do all they can to stay afloat.