Coronavirus dominates sideline talk at aviation conference

By Scott Hamilton

March 2, 2020, © Leeham News, Austin (TX): The global impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus, was the dominant talk on the sidelines of an aviation conference here.


Industry professionals predict the reduction in airline service will only grow and could grow dramatically. Aircraft groundings could escalate sharply. Carriers are already seeking payment relief. Lessors are gearing up to repossess airplanes.

And universally, these professionals think the worst is yet to come.

Thinking the worst

Dire comparisons already have been made of COVID-19 with SARS and 9/11, when the airline industry was decimated across the globe.

Now, some comparisons are also being made with the 1991 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The airline industry was unprepared for shock of sharply higher oil prices, dramatically falling passenger demand and fears of terror action threatened by Saddam Hussein.

In the US, 40% of the passenger capacity provided by US airlines at one point operated under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The number of failures took with it Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, TWA, Continental Airlines, Midway Airlines and more.

In 2001, global airlines were hit hard by the 9/11 terror attacks. The US carriers were hit hardest. The government approved a $15bn bailout package. The Air Transportation Stabilization Board (ATSB) was created to administer the bailout. It wound up picking and choosing which airlines survived and which ones died.

The industry barely began its recovery when, in 2003, the SARS virus hit. Like COVID-19, SARS began in China.

COVID-19 is only now causing deaths in the US. The impact here, and globally, will take weeks or months to fully understand.

LNA last week published its first report on COVID-19. This week, LNA begins a series of analysis looking at the impacts so far.

33 Comments on “Coronavirus dominates sideline talk at aviation conference

  1. “”SARS began in China””

    I remember a friend travelled to China in the early 1990s.
    In a restaurant they cut a living snake and pressed out all the liquids inside, blood and everything, and let it drip into a glass to drink.
    Who would want to drink that?

    Once I lived with a Chinese family in NYC. The Chinese lady was pregnant and she put some powder into her water to drink. The powder was what birds spit out. Kind of expensive.

    Some crazy stuff is going on there.

    Sure this will hit aviation hard, many airlines will change their game.
    Last week we talked about Alaska, sure they won’t expand now. Alaska might cancel their lease contracts.

    Bad for Airbus, not so bad for Boeing.

    • I’m not sure what kind of judgement you are leveling here, and I’m surprised LNA lets it run. The French eat snails, the Japanese have Fugu, and you can try fried squirrel brains in parts of the US. What’s any of your recoiling about Chinese popular beliefs have to do with the virus?
      As for A vs. B, all lessors may and likely will suffer.

      • I believe his point is that odd ball practices that bring people into fluid contact with living animals is a recipe for C-19.

        US squirrels are not on a known list of animal to human carriers, they are cooked on site, not brought into a restaurant and eviscerated.

        China has know and cracked down on the so called industry, they let ti go again knowing not only the creatures involved but China itself has been the cause of Flu start and extensive animal to human contact.

        The US will rue how its dismantled its how good health system. Iran has practices that have aided and abbeded including key leadership people infected, in rooms or press conference hacking an coughing the whole time.

        So yes, gruesome food practices are not cultural attack, they are a fact and basis of this and other outbreaks that the rest of us have to live or die with.

        • What about a country that has to sanitize chicken meat with hypochloric acid?
          Or eating habits that lead to massive obesity in the population?
          Lets top it off with endemic salmonella infections
          and for whatever healthy reason life expectancy is on the way down.

  2. ” the 1991 invasion of Iraq by Iran.”

    There is no record of a 1991 invasion of Iraq by Iran.

    You mean the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

        • if you are set on Iran/Iraq:

          The real “First” Gulf War:
          “The Iran–Iraq War began on 22 September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, and it ended on 20 August 1988,”
          ( Iraq apparently egged on and supplied by the US )

          • Gee is there anything bad the US is not responsible for. Anything? Do tell.

          • Don’t forget that the UK, France, the USSR, and most of the Arab states supported Iraq in that war.

            China, and South Africa supplied arms to both sides in that conflict.

  3. We don’t have enough information yet, but I have been studying the Spanish, Asian, and Hong Kong epidemics infection and mortality rates were massively worse than SARs, bird flu,etc.Some pacific Islands had 20% of their population wiped out in 6 weeks. I can easily see a situation developing where almost no one will be prepared to board an airliner or cruise ship for several months.
    If you have tried to purchase face masks or tyvek suits over the last couple of days you will see that panic alone is enough to ground most of the worlds aircraft fleet.

    • Or toilet paper. Shelves were empty in a Seattle Safeway and Costco yesterday. This is going to get ugly, fast.

        • “what’s wrong with Americans?”
          Ask Uwe he’ll tell you! LOL

          Actually there is a massive run on toilet paper in Hong Kong so what’s wrong with them?

          Never mind, I’m sure the US is behind it!

          • I read that Japan and Germany have also gone toilet paper mad. Here in the UK people haven’t gone mad yet but baby milk and cleaning products seem to fill people’s trolleys. I am expecting a worldwide shopping panic over the next 2 or 3 weeks. I remember back in the 1970s there was an iceing sugar mania, no one really wanted that much but they stocked up having heard it was in short supply

    • Some were and some wern’t. Coastal China seems to have been lightly hit.

      They don’t have good records on the China interior.

      The hardest hit were indigenous people. That has always been true as many were isolated off from the mainstream of humanity and lost that immunity response.

  4. The real problems start if the Corona virus mutates to something much worse with longer incurbation time while it contamines and then after 1-2 months the fever breaks out.
    I think the WHO has calculated a frequency when cities with +10 million inhabilants around the world will develop these diseases, as population grows and with high population densities nature will create diseases as for any animals with extreme population growth and density, with intercontinental flights the spread can be extremely fast.

    • I think we can safely say the problem has started.

      It can go one of three ways, More lethal, same or less.

      Its huge now.

      • Unfortunately I don’t think we have seen the half of it. Without wishing to be alarmist my company are already heavy into contingency planning. The ramifications could be quite stark

  5. This is more than about airlines, though it is and is going to affect them.

    Soon all meetings will be cancelled, you can wave the 2020 Olympics goodbye (not that I see that as a loss personally but it does affect the worlds economayh)

    My mothers salad bar is now shut down. Salad is huge in her world. Small stuff, but that too ripples.

    Elections: How do you hold elections? How do you nominate if you can’t hold a convention?

    Hoarding: People in Oregon where a case popped up cleaned out the toiler paper at COSCTO. Amazon is selling masks at $400 for 10.

    Will people stay at their jobs and will the delivery systems keep working?

    Do we have POX parties to get it over and know?

    Drugs: Many made in China or the ingredients , how is that affected?

    Only time will tell how this plays out, its a guess and people do odd things and normal things.

  6. Poor quality of information available and action on this, is making this all worse than it ought to be, in both governmental and public actions. Particularly disappointing is the way the key U.S. capabilities have been serioulsy weakened through Trump funding cuts. As things stand, I don’t see any way that it can be contained when the symptoms take so long to show, too many members of the public don’t treat the situation with the seriousness it warrants, and governmental resources deployed so far have often been too little, too late.

    For airlines, I think this is far worse than any of the issues (invasions, terrorism, SARS etc) mentioned above. In all of those circumstances governments and central banks had the financial firepower to be able to pump money where it was needed, the geography was much more localised, and air transport was especially exposed. The 2008 crisis and ensuing policies have drained much of the financial backstop worldwide and this new crisis is global, both geographically and sectroally, not limited.

    • Some General said “time, give me anything but I will take time”

      I don’t think this was stoppable, more so that it escaped to Iran and will be huge in the surrounding countries that have no health systems.

      But it could have been slowed down, and that buys you time.

      US is showing its complete ineptmenss, whoel agencies are gutted and then not followed protocol.

      Sending US workers unprotected, bring back exposed people and then scatter them all across the US via aircrat, insanely stupid but that is what we have.

      CDC can’t even get a test kit out and South Korean fabbed tens of thousands of them, that worked and did not have to be sent to Soul.

      As Usual the low guys on the totem pole see the train wreck.

      In a serious twist if Irony , all the MAGA rallies have been declare safe. Right, go for it.

      We now get to see how BS and bluster works against a virus.

      Light some incense, it won’t help but its calming.

    • I know this is a tangent but, an example of the poor coordination is the messaging on purchasing surgical face masks. The Surgeon General came out with a Twitter statement “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!”, because:
      1) They are ineffective against Covid-19.
      2) They are crucially important and needed for health care workers to fight Covid-19.

      These statements are contradictory. Either they work and should be rationed, or they don’t work and then who cares if people buy them or not.

      • There are multiple reasons for that statement:

        One is that there are various grades of face masks, many of which won’t protect against the virus. Yet sales of those are very high right now too. Most people wouldn’t know the difference, so they are not really protecting themselves, just reducing supply for those health care professionals that do need them, for surgery and other non-virus related activities.

        The other issue is that the virus-rated mask is most effective when worn by a patient with the virus, and second-most effective by someone treating them, to avoid immediate exposure to nasal droplets or mist. That is the propagation vector. The odds of you encountering an infected person are very slim, at least for now. If you do come in contact with someone that develops or has the virus, you’ll likely be contacted or otherwise be made aware of it.

        Given that virus-rated masks are a limited resource, they should be directed to where they have the most effect. Limiting the available supply with affectless purchases may actually provide the opportunity for the virus to spread.

        • @Rob

          your explanations are very useful and display great expertise – but your phrase

          ‘ If you do come in contact with someone that develops or has the virus, you’ll likely be contacted or otherwise be made aware of it.’

          Can be taken as gallows humour – sure and knowledge comes only from pain

          • Gerrard, the “gallows” thinking is exactly what the health organizations are trying to avoid. Exposure is not an automatic death sentence, or even an automatic transmission. You can’t put a mask on every person in the world thinking that will stop the virus. None of that is really valid.

  7. From what I can gather, the grade of 3M mask most in demand is fairly lowly FFP2 grade and almost anything would work in reducing the risk of nasal spray, etc. The problem is with use, you would have to frequently change them and use them in a very controlled way or you just increase the risk from touching your face when you have just touched a contaminated surface etc.
    I would imagine that wearing a mask when sitting next to an infected person on a plane would significantly reduce the risk theoretically but is not going to work practically in every day situations.

    • Yea its like wash your hands.

      Ok, how many surfaces do you touch? Mobile hand washing station with you? Well why not/.

      Like the mask thing, it works in a highly controlled and disciplined environment (which is why it won’t work in US hospitals who promptly let the Ebola loose)

      I am leaning to catching it and getting it over with.

      • FWIW, on average, humans touch their face in some way 23 times a minute. Read this elsewhere RE Covid 19.

    • If the infected person wears the mask, yes, the mask will catch the mist or droplets.

      For the person picking up the virus from a contaminated surface or object, from which the virus may subsequently become airborne, no, the mask cannot filter the virus unless it’s an N95 or equivalent, and those must be fitted masks (no leakage) to be effective.

      The social media stars posting pictures of their masked selves while traveling, are generally not wearing the N95 mask, or are not wearing it correctly.

      You’d do far better with good general hygiene (wash hands, especially before touching face, and use alcohol wipes on surfaces). That would prevent more than just the corona virus.

      • N95/FFP2 is cheap and nothing special, anything above that is more likely to leak from the pressure differential anyway.
        Anyone with a lorry load of them should donate them to the emergency services or flog them on ebay and become a millionaire.

        • The initial issue is not expense, it’s availability if everyone rushes out to buy them. Then they will become expensive, due to shortages.

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