The world is a very different place than it was 10 months ago. The demands on us as an ANSP and the support our airport customers need are totally unlike what we were dealing with this time last year. Covid has forced us all to adapt and in doing so we’ve learnt some valuable lessons.
In our response to the impact the pandemic is having on the aviation industry, we have prioritised protecting operational jobs to ensure we have the capacity to manage traffic when it returns. However, the industry is not predicting a return to 2019 traffic levels until 2024 or even 2025, which means painful decisions cannot be avoided.
The general assumption is that traffic is likely to increase slowly through to the end of the year, but we have to be ready to handle traffic whenever it returns. There’s no way airspace can be a constraint on regeneration so that means careful planning within our operation.
It’s six weeks since air traffic pretty much disappeared from our skies and whichever flight tracking app you might use, you’re not seeing much on it any more. For our air traffic controllers, it’s now like working a permanent night shift, bumping along at around 10% of normal traffic levels. Many of our controllers have been furloughed though, as key workers, it is important we rotate them through the operation and that we have an on-call shift in reserve at all times, to maintain resilience. And to be ready for a restart, whenever and however that might happen.
Thinking back through the major crises I’ve worked through during my professional life and nothing has come close to the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on both our industry.