This Month in Aviation: November 2021

After months of focus on university work, procrastination, and other commitments, it’s about time for a long overdue update from us at The Final Approach! What a month it’s been. Full of exciting industry updates as well as continuing spikes in COVID-19 cases and fluctuating regulations due to the Omicron variant rising. After COP26 of course, this month was full of sustainability stories and efforts sector-wide. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) have hit the headlines a lot recently – with Airbus trialling 100% SAF on a helicopter flight, and United Airlines this week becoming the world’s first airline to operate a passenger flight with one engine running on 100% sustainable fuel. Embraer this month also unveiled new sustainable aircraft concepts too.

We need to continue to work with the government to support an increase in SAF production as well as research and development into newer technologies. Without action now, we risk the future of aviation and the health of our planet.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow

Read on to find out what we’ve been up to this month, to get an update into industry metrics and key updates, and to find out what’s coming this month as we finally get back to writing content for you.

Into Another Year of University Studies…

It’s now a new year, with new modules, new topics, and different challenges to face. This is my final year of my Bachelors degree in Airline and Airport Management, and it’s set to be a difficult but exciting one – with exams, industry focus, and a dissertation to write too. I’ve also taken up the Chair position of my university’s Aviation Society, so will be tasked with bringing fun and engaging events and trips to our students this year.

With the Aviation Society I went to an event this month with The Air League, to listen to John Holland-Kaye (Heathrow’s CEO) outline the airport’s plan for regrowth post-COVID and for a sustainable future which supports Britain’s economy. I couldn’t turn down the chance to have a chat with John after the event, as well as a quick photo!

We also organised a visit from highly experienced NATS Air Traffic Controller and training instructor, Stuart Little, who talked to our students all about life in ATC, careers at NATS, and how important it is to experience failure in life – failure is a good thing, it gives us opportunities to bounce back and grow.

Alongside these talks, the uni also hosted many important industry professionals – including Dawn Wilson, the COO of TUI’s airline, and George Coe, Airfield Operations Manager at Gatwick Airport. Overall it’s been a fantastic month full of exciting talks, studies, and industry insight.

Industry Metrics & Update

October saw continued recovery in both domestic and international markets. Total RPKs were 50.6% of those in October 2019 – a rise of 3.9% on 2020 levels. However, the November rise of the Omicron variant now threatens the recovery of the sector, with increasing travel bans and the UK government now requiring pre-departure tests for all UK arrivals.

Lifting of the US restrictions last month raised hopes that we would see a winter surge in travel, however governments globally have introduced knee-jerk reactions to Omicron which show a step back in recovery – despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) insisting that “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.

The ill-advised travel bans are as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA

Growing Vaccination Disparity

As European countries, as well as developed nations globally, announce their plans for vaccination boosters and third doses, many developing nations are being severely left behind. A quick look at the adjacent graph shows African nations being at a significantly disadvantaged position in their vaccination state, and this is not sustainable going forward for international air travel and reducing COVID-19 restrictions. Willie Walsh, DG of IATA, said “Governments must address the terrible disparity in vaccination rates that has seen the developed world offering boosters at a time when less than 10% of the African continent is fully vaccinated”.

Regrowth of the air travel industry will require constant global collaboration to streamline the travel process, reduce unnecessary barriers and regulations, and ensure a balanced and fair return to normality for all regions globally.

What’s Coming Up On The Final Approach?

We’ve got an exciting month coming up on the blog, with continued events, content and insight into our student lives. After constant efforts to reduce procrastination and improve my time management, I can finally commit to giving this blog the attention it deserves going into 2022.

Some of the upcoming articles and blogs we’ve got coming up in December 2021:

  • How to stay updated on aviation industry news
  • My experience with Dublin Airport talking winter corrosion protection on runway de-icer vehicles
  • Stories of an RAF pilot and his heroic missions during WW2, told by his son, and our lecturer, Stuart Green
  • All about ATC, NATS, and our visit from experienced air traffic controller, Stuart Little

I do hope you’ll tune in to the blog this month, and wish you good health and all the best going into the last month of what has been another tough, tough year.

This month I’d like to especially thank:

I'm an avid writer and airport fanatic. I'm currently studying Airline and Airport Management at Bucks New University and hope to work in airport operations in the future.

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