Unprecedented Crisis Management

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Abstract

The paper analyses the issue of crisis management with reference to the current state of the aviation industry following the COVID-19 pandemic. The main aim of the essay is to demonstrate that unprecedented crisis management is emerging when businesses and industries are trying to find ways to overcome unique challenges. Based on the relevant and current literature review, the paper investigates what actions and decisions the aviation industry make to deal with the existing issues. One should emphasize that creative thinking and innovations are the most significant phenomena that help the industry stay afloat against the background of the pandemic. In conclusion, the essay offers useful advice for airlines and airports to preserve their viability. These recommended steps include emphasizing health safety onboard and at the airport, using electrofuels when possible and relying more on narrow-bodied aircraft.

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Introduction

This year, humankind has experienced one of the most significant crises in its history. It refers to the COVID-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the whole world, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people and problems in every life sphere. In the current situation, new phenomena, including social distancing and self-isolation, appear and people should do their best to incorporate them into their lives. The given state of affairs is even more challenging for numerous economic spheres since they need to find ways to keep performing against the background of the unprecedented crisis. Thus, the present paper is going to analyze how the aviation industry manages the coronavirus crisis and what steps it needs to take to ensure its viability.

Critical Analysis / Evaluation

To begin with, one should mention that a crisis is “an event perceived by managers and stakeholders as highly salient, unexpected and potentially disruptive” (Bundy et al., 2017, p. 1662). The definition comes from a scholarly article that offers essential insight into the topic. This event can result in numerous adverse outcomes for businesses, including organizational problems, inability to achieve stipulated goals and others. It is so because crises occur unexpectedly, and it is challenging to identify the correct actions to be taken. According to a scholarly article by Oscarsson and Danielsson (2018), such situations require a rapid response that should often be taken under conditions of uncertainty and stress.

That is why the issue of crisis management is always of significance. The traditional definition of this term is to “identify and fix the problems in inputs and operations that lead to ineffective outputs” (Bundy et al., 2017, p. 1670). This explanation supposes that individuals or organizations have an opportunity to influence the problem to achieve positive outcomes. The phenomenon of crisis management is useful because it relies on existing information to cope with new issues. In other words, crisis management is effective in those cases when ordinary or traditional phenomena cause crises.

Thus, the information above results in a statement that unprecedented crisis management does not exist. When a unique situation occurs, there are no previous examples that could explain how to overcome the challenges. In this case, it is typical that unprepared and inexperienced individuals make mistakes and cannot adequately respond to new challenges. However, the statement does not mean that some companies cannot successfully overcome unprecedented difficulties. Creative thinking and innovations are the most significant phenomena that could help organizations or industries manage unprecedented crises adequately. Thus, the following section will consider the current state of the aviation industry against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate how the industry deals with the unprecedented crisis.

Review of Supporting Evidence: COVID-19 and the Aviation Industry

COVID-19 Impact

As has been mentioned above, COVID-19 has influenced every life sphere, and the aviation industry is not an exception. Preventive measures to stop the coronavirus outbreak result in the fact that the industry is facing numerous challenges. The adverse effects were the most significant in China that was the first country to suffer from the virus. Mhalla (2020) analyses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and explains that the Chinese aviation market was considered the third-largest one in December 2019, but fell to 25th place in January 2020. The work by Mhalla (2020) investigates the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Asian aviation industry. As for the United States, another scholarly article by Nicola et al. (2020) states that the country has canceled international and domestic flights to prevent the disease from spreading. British airlines are also in a difficult situation because of a reduced number of flights. Consequently, airports and airlines lose a significant portion of their revenue, which endangers their further operation.

Thus, governments cancel flights, and numerous people are isolated in their houses. As a result, the aviation industry is facing decreased supply and demand, which has never been the topic on a global scale. Even though air companies cannot influence government regulations, it is their responsibility to ensure that new flights will meet all the safety requirements once air routes become open. That is why the information below will comment on how the industry responds to the current crisis with the help of innovative decisions.

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Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis

It has already been stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new phenomena, including social distancing, specific preventing measures and others. That is why the aviation industry should adequately respond to them once it becomes possible to travel by air. The possible responses are represented by the following options:

  • ensuring safety for patients and airline personnel;
  • organizing specific training;
  • providing aircrews with the necessary equipment.

Even though the current situation is considered an unprecedented crisis, virus outbreaks are not new to the world. According to the International Airport Review (2020), a roundtable of officials who specialize in the world aviation industry, the Airport Preparedness Guidelines for Outbreaks of Communicable Diseases offer useful information. This document stipulates that passenger and aviation staff safety is the most significant phenomenon that can influence the viability of the industry. That is why these guidelines emphasize the importance of “communication, inbound and outbound screening, emergency response and coordination with relevant authorities” (International Airport Review, 2020, para. 14). In addition to that, hygiene standards and work-from-home opportunities are welcomed by numerous airlines.

The UK government also understands the significant role of safety standards and comments on the situation on its website. That is why it has published a specific guide for the aviation industry to make it protect passengers and airline staff from the virus. Firstly, this guideline emphasizes the importance of social distancing, meaning that there should be at least two meters between passengers and airport staff (Gov.UK, 2020). Secondly, the document stipulates that hand washing is another essential measure to combat COVID-19. That is why both passengers and employees are encouraged to wash their hands or use hand sanitizers regularly (Gov.UK, 2020). Respiratory hygiene is the third significant element of the guide under consideration. This phenomenon means that people should avoid touching their faces and wear face-covering (Gov.UK, 2020). In addition to that, it is airline’s responsibility to achieve decent ventilation onboard, reduce movement of passengers within aircraft, minimize interaction between passengers and aircrew and others.

The information above has demonstrated that airport ground personnel and aviation crews play a significant role in managing the COVID-19 crisis. Jetex (2020), a general aviation trip support company, insists on the fact that airport and airline employees should receive COVID-specific training to meet the new challenges. Firstly, such individuals should be trained on how to work and behave in environments with confirmed coronavirus cases. Secondly, the new life reality means that it is of significance for these employees to learn how to treat suspected cases. These two examples have a shared feature because the crew’s responsibility is to prevent ill or potentially ill individuals from infecting healthy ones. If a suspected case turns to be a confirmed one, aircrew members become epidemiologists. It means that the airline employees should determine a risk group onboard, isolate it, and make its members subject to health observation upon landing.

In addition to that, Jetex (2020) emphasizes that every aircraft should be equipped with specific precaution kits. They do not substitute first-aid sets but only present an appropriate response to the new threat. In particular, these precaution kits should include germicidal wipes or disinfectants, protective equipment and biohazard disposable waste bag (Jetex, 2020). This statement is a logical supplement to the two previous issues. Finally, the active communication of coronavirus means that aircrews should draw specific attention to cleaning and disinfection procedures. These actions are necessary to ensure that all the dangerous substances are killed once passengers leave an aircraft. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the aviation industry understands the existing challenges and tries to address them with the help of its personnel.

The information above shows that the current crisis is unprecedented because it highlights the issues that were not so significant a few months ago. Since coronavirus is transmitted at a short distance between people, governments ban mass gatherings, which makes aviation industry performance almost impossible. However, airports and airlines utilize an innovative and creative approach to the situation. The relevant and current sources have presented sufficient evidence that the industry has the potential to address the COVID-19 challenges and operate efficiently within a new environment. Simultaneously, one should mention that the current crisis does not only emphasize the importance of health, safety, disinfection and others. The lockdown that paralyzed the whole world for a few months has demonstrated that the environment benefits when people do nothing. Worldwide self-isolation also refers to the absence of air, water and soil pollutions. That is why the unprecedented crisis shows that the aviation industry should follow some pieces of advice to ensure its viability in the post-crisis era. Thus, the following section will present a few recommended steps.

Meeting the Post-Coronavirus World Requirements

Firstly, it is impossible to deny the fact that pride of place will go to health safety when the COVID-19 crisis ends and virus threats disappear. It is so because the adverse experience will teach people that they should draw more attention to appropriate preventive measures. That is why the aviation industry should not approach coronavirus preventive procedures as a temporary phenomenon. There is a probability that they will be an inevitable element of every flight in the future. Consequently, a recommended step for the aviation industry is to invest more efforts in training personnel, providing aircraft with the necessary equipment and others. In this case, air traveling will be less associated with communicating coronavirus or other diseases, which will not make governments ban flight connections in similar situations.

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Secondly, it seems wise for the aviation industry to draw a lesson from the current crisis in the long run. In addition to shocking the whole world, the lockdown proved that aircraft emissions, in particular, were an essential source of environmental contamination. Since the number of passengers and air travel volumes is increasing with every passing year, it is possible to suppose that nature is going to witness irreparable harm in the near future. This idea is central in the article by Skibsted (2020) that is published on the World Economic Forum (WEF) website. The WEF is the international organization for public-private cooperation and presents information on what governments should do to contribute to the continuous development of various industries. That is why Skibsted (2020) analyses the current crisis and admits that moving to electrofuels would be a reasonable option for the aviation industry. In this case, aircraft will not produce any harmful emissions, which will contribute to a cleaner world.

Thirdly, it is also rational to consider what recommendations are useful for aircraft manufacturers and suppliers. The Collyer Bristow LLP (2020), one of London’s leading law firms that provide high-quality legal advice, addresses the topic and offers two conclusions. On the one hand, the lockdown leads to the fact that aircraft stand idle, which negatively influences their performance abilities. As a result, manufacturers and suppliers will have much work once the crisis ends. On the other hand, the Collyer Bristow LLP (2020) supposes that the COVID-19 outbreak will make the manufacturers draw more attention to narrow-bodied aircraft. This choice is justified by the fact that planes of this type are more versatile and imply a lower risk of communicating viruses among passengers. It is so because they can accommodate fewer passengers, which is a suitable strategy to combat coronavirus. Thus, the recommendation for the manufacturers and suppliers is to prepare for more productive work and invest more effort in making narrow-bodied aircraft.

The two previous recommendations, including the use of electrofuels and switch to narrow-bodied planes, are not easy to follow. The necessity to have sufficient financial resources is the most significant barrier for the aviation industry. It is so because the crisis has resulted in essential revenue losses, and the industry does not have the resources to invest in innovations. That is why the final recommendation for the airlines and aviation manufacturers is to seek and rely on government assistance. One can suppose that the aviation industry will not be able to achieve its viability in the post-coronavirus world without financial aid from the state.

Discussion and Conclusion

Crises sometimes happen, and they bring significant challenges, resulting in adverse outcomes. Once such a situation occurs, the phenomenon of crisis management comes to prominence. This term denotes some actions and decisions made by responsible persons to mitigate the negative impact of an unexpected situation. Usually, crisis management relies on historical information when individuals identify how similar challenges were treated in the past. However, it sometimes happens that an unprecedented crisis occurs, and it is impossible to find previous examples of how to manage it. The COVID-19 pandemic is a suitable example of this situation since a single virus has paralyzed the whole world. Since modern history does not have successful records of how to overcome the new challenges, individuals and entire industries are encouraged to rely on innovations and creating thinking. These two are the most significant phenomena that help the aviation industry manage the current issues.

Even though the crisis is unprecedented and brings severe disadvantages, the industry demonstrates decent performance in dealing with its challenges. Firstly, airports and airlines invest many efforts in making their environment safer and less suitable for communicating coronavirus. Secondly, aircrews undertake specialized training to know how to behave with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases to minimize the number of infected passengers. Thirdly, airports and airlines understand the significance of preventing measures, including disinfection procedures and draw appropriate attention to them.

Even though the aviation industry shows resilience to the coronavirus challenges, it is still reasonable to comment on a few recommendations that would increase the industry viability. The first advice for airlines is not to ignore health safety principles once the coronavirus pandemic ends. These issues might be a cornerstone of the future aviation industry. The second recommendation is to make aircraft manufacturers produce planes that use electrofuels. This step is necessary to make the aviation industry less harmful to the environment. Finally, a suitable option for aircraft manufacturers will be to place a greater focus on narrow-sided planes to achieve higher versatility of the industry.

References

Bundy, J., Pfarrer, M. D., Short, C. E., & Coombs, W. T. (2017). Crises and crisis management: Integration, interpretation and research development. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1661-1692.

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Collyer Bristow LLP. (2020). How is the aviation industry managing with COVID-19? Lexology. Web.

Gov.UK. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Safer aviation guidance for operators. Web.

International Airport Review. (2020). Coronavirus roundtable: How is the aviation industry responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? Web.

Jetex. (2020). WHO guidelines: How the aviation industry should manage COVID-19. Web.

Mhalla, M. (2020). The impact of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the global oil and aviation markets. Journal of Asian Scientific Research, 10(2), 96-104.

Nicola, M., Alsafi, Z., Sohrabi, C., Kerwan, A., Al-Jabir, A., Iosifidis, C., Agha, M., & Agha, R. (2020). The socio-economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19): A review. International Journal of Surgery, 78, 185-193.

Oscarsson, O., & Danielsson, E. (2018). Unrecognized crisis management – Normalising everyday work. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 26(2), 225-236.

Skibsted, J. M. (2020). COVID-19 gives us a chance to design an aviation industry fit for the future. World Economic Forum. Web.

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