Should Aviation Accept Permanent COVID?

Published: 12-06-2021
Immunologists think COVID might be sticking around. How should aviation respond?

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

With the discovery of a new strain of COVID, called Omicron, many in the aviation industry are throwing up their hands in exhaustion. COVID frustration and fatigue is real.

On the one hand, people around the world are mass protesting vaccine mandates. On the other hand, the COVID death toll in the US for 2021 has surpassed the COVID death toll for 2020, showing the lasting power of the virus.

Passengers are desperate to travel and see relatives, and increased regulations are resulting in an increase in violence and agitation in airports. But with the Omicron variant now potentially spreading across the globe, the chance that mask mandates and vaccine boosters will simply go away is reducing by the day.

We have to ask the question: Is COVID here to stay? And what does that look like for airlines, pilots, and the aviation industry?

Permanent COVID

According to the science magazine Nature, a strong majority of experts agreed that COVID is here with us for the long haul. In January, Nature asked over 100 immunologists, virologists, and other researchers whether the coronavirus would continue to exist in parts of the global population for years into the future.

90% of these experts said that, yes, COVID will likely stick around.

In such a situation affecting our globalized economy, the aviation industry may need to prepare itself in ways we haven’t seen before. Will we see global mask mandates become permanent or targeted regional tactics? Will we see an effort for herd immunity or a far-reaching requirement of, not only vaccines, but boosters as well?

Regular Travel Bans

Travel bans may become a regular occurrence as well. While post-9/11 America may have expected terrorism to be the cause of travel restrictions, 2022 and beyond may see shifting lockdowns on areas of travel due to the microscopic terror of a virus.

After the Omicron variant was discovered to originate in South Africa, President Biden banned entry from that country, as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The EU followed with travel bans of their own.

In a future of permanent COVID, airlines would have to accommodate much more fickle travel schedules, and this means taking care of pilots, crew, and passengers. Such stability would also inoculate them from the type of stock free falls that happened in the wake of the Omicron discovery.

If the scientists polled by Nature turn out to be correct, aviation needs to look beyond temporary rules and regulations and begin thinking of the virus as a long-term burden.

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