Out from the darkness and into the light – a new dawn for the aviation and travel industry in 2021 and beyond

5 May, 2021

As aviation and travel continues what can only be described as a period of darkness, the industry that emerges will look vastly different than it did before the COVID-19 outbreak. The implications are wide-ranging and highly disruptive.

A recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation analysis highlighted that the global travel and tourism sector lost as much in revenues in 2020 as 'Second World' controlled-economy countries used to lose over the life of their five-year plans. (SEE:Global travel/tourism sectors lost massively in 2020; how to revive’)

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is bullish that international travel could restart in earnest in Jun-2021 if a series of its recommendations are adhered to, and that ‘normality’ could be restored as early as 2022 – well in advance of other estimates. But the underlying problem, now over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, is that the ‘ecosystem’ has been trodden underfoot, and not by air transport passengers.

There is a basic lack of everything – functioning aircraft, in some cases pilots to fly them and cabin staff to work them, hotels to stay in, restaurants to eat in, conference facilities to meet in, travel agents and tour operators to make bookings through, beaches to stroll on without having to wear a mask…the list goes on.

While the WTTC does at least have a ‘plan’ to put Humpty Dumpty back together again – which is more than can be said for many governments and for some other travel-related organisations – the real problem the industry will face if and when the virus wanes may be the one in peoples’ heads.

As a continuation of CAPA’s Masterclass Series, CAPA – Centre for Aviation’s chairman emeritus Peter Harbison each month delivers a global big picture overview of our industry and where it will be in 2021 as part of the CAPA Live virtual conference The CAPA chairman’s updates in 2021 have covered subjects ranging from the state of the industry and its outlook to environmental sustainability and airlines in transition.

Here’s each of Mr Harbison’s sessions and industry observations from the first four months of 2021:

April – How can we expect a sustainable industry built on junk bonds? A drunken industry, lurching towards the next crisis


March – Finding a balance between survival of the world and survival of the aviation and travel industry


February – Midnight’s approaching: who is going to turn into a pumpkin. A story of hope and delusion (and some hope)


January – First diagnose the problem, THEN… find the solution for airlines. Vaccines are not the solution to the problems the airlines face