When I first started in this business in the early 80’s I was told “If you don’t like change, then aviation is not the place for you.” Our industry has certainly lived up to that saying.
So what is next? If I knew for sure, I would not be writing articles and trying to make a living helping people buy aircraft, but would be sitting on the beach or out on the links. However, as an industry veteran with over 36 years experience, it does help place some things in perspective.
Our industry has been through all kinds of disasters/downturns. I personally have survived through a great many of them and you will too. People will still fly, update their aircraft but unfortunately a few will be forced to the sidelines due to economic circumstances beyond their control. All of these people are going to need their trusted experts to help them make good and informed decisions. My advice to anyone with a plane is, now is not the time to navigate these dangerous waters without the help of experience.
It is also a great time to update your aircraft valuation. Similar to everything in your business portfolio, you really need to know the value of what often for many companies is one of their largest capital investments. The last down turn illustrated that previous book depreciation numbers were off by millions of dollars.
I personally believe that once the smoke clears, we will see an uptick in private aviation demand. Keeping employees safe when they travel will be a more important factor in why they utilize private aviation. It has been popular to bash private aviation as an expensive perk. The reality is that in addition to productivity gains, personal aircraft offer additional benefits of security, privacy and now health benefits.
The facts for years have been that a majority of business aviation flights are filled with middle manager workers. For years it was a matter of improved productivity. Now there is an added advantage of health concerns. It might be less popular to demand that companies not use aircraft to accomplish these goals. A little bit like saying you should not pay for those added safe guards at the factory because they cost too much. Extreme? Perhaps, but who can deny there is an added safety benefit for using the company aircraft for business travel? If a company really values their employees, flying private might be a new cost of enhancing key employee safety.
Since many businesses are doing video conferencing there is some talk about how video conferencing will replace the need to travel. Anyone in aviation has heard this for many years. Business people understand that as humans we need the face-to-face contact.
Professor Thomas Allen was the MIT scientist that came up with a communication theory called the Allen Theory. In its simplest form it states as distance increases, the quality and the amount of communication goes down. People get more done when they are in close proximity. Some say this theory is no longer valid due to all of the ways we can communicate from long distances. While not being a scientist, I feel my age and experience debunks that we can be as effective without face-to-face meetings. We are social animals and we experience the world from our firsthand analysis. Perhaps some lesser meetings will be done via video, however the real business is still going to require being there.
For all of those people who celebrate the Passover and Easter let me ask this question. For those of you who celebrated Passover via face time versus your normal in-person gathering and those Christians that had to celebrate Easter via an online service, was it the same? I know for myself and my family it was not the same.
If anyone thinks this is the last serious pandemic they will see in their lifetime, they are very old or very naïve. In an interconnected world we have learned that there are many health issues that can travel and they travel best in large contained environments.
My advice is to do what all business’s do on a daily basis. Plan for the future and work with experts with experience to help formulate good strategies for your travel needs.