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2021 in review

Following the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation industry in 2020, it is no surprise that at the beginning of 2021 a number of aviation companies reported losses. In January, Boeing announced revenue of $58.2 billion, down from $76.6 billion the previous year, and an operating loss of $12.8 billion, whilst in February Airbus reported revenue of €49.9 billion, down from €70.5 billion the previous year, and an operating loss of €1.1 billion.

However, cargo business continued to be play a major part in keeping some airlines afloat; and as we reported earlier in the year, airlines continue to convert passenger aircraft to temporary freighters, with 300 aircraft identified, up from 155 in 2020 as reported by Cirium, with cargo-only flights seeing a 114% increase in goods transported in Q2 2021 vs Q2 2019 (pre-pandemic).

That being said, if we look at the number of aircraft in storage, it is clear that there is still some recovery to be made. Pre Covid-19 there were normally 2,000 aircraft in storage, in comparison to 5, 000 today. However, we can certainly see the impact of recovery in flying hours; in January 2021 single-aisle aircraft were averaging 6.6 hours of daily flying globally; by November 2021 this had increased to 7.7 hours.

Th International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) also shared their results, showing that the overall reduction of seats offered by airlines moved from 50% in 2020 to 40% in 2021, and the overall reduction of passengers moved from 60% to 49%. Although this is still a reduction in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, it is reassuring to see the industry moving in the right direction.

August saw the number of commercial flights in the EU increase by 48% compared with August 2020. In absolute terms, the number of commercial flights stood at 479 000 in August 2021, compared with 325 000 in August 2020 and 696 000 in August 2019.

In October, The international Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Willie Walsh claimed “We are past the deepest point of the crisis. While serious issues remain, the path to recovery is coming into view.”

After 20 months of restrictions, in November the United States opened its borders to allow international travellers to return. In celebration, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic worked together to perform synchronised take-offs on parallel runways from London Heathrow Airport.

In December, Australia reopened its borders to vaccinated skilled migrants and foreign students for an early two year ban on their entry, despite the emergence of the new Omicron variant delaying the reopening by two weeks. However, Asia-Pacific countries have almost entirely missed out on the global recovery of air travel, with flights still down more than 90 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels. The region is the only part of the world to see practically no improvement in air travel during the past year, with traffic up just 0.3 percentage point in October compared to September.

Looking ahead

By the year’s end, global airline capacity is expected to have returned to levels last seen in 2006, with flights down 38 per cent on 2019 volumes. With the fluctuation in variants, cases and vaccination rates, it is safe to say that we should expect continued uncertainty in 2022; but the results of 2021 are positive and show we are moving in the right direction. Looking to 2022, Cirium expects global passenger numbers to grow by 47 per cent in 2022, matching volumes last seen in 2015. Recovery will be driven by domestic volumes, which it expects to return to pre-Covid levels, while international traffic is predicted to return to two-thirds of 2019 volumes.

If there is one thing we have all learnt from the past year, it is that nobody knows what lies around the corner for this industry. That is why we are constantly on hand to provide a range of recruitment solutions, allowing you to upscale on a flexible, cost-efficient basis.

Here at AeroProfessional, we pride ourselves on our broad variety of staffing solutions designed to support airline recovery, with varied options to match each requirement and varying budgets. All of our recruitment solutions provide you with fast access to a high-calibre, pre-vetted pool of suitable, professional applicants, dramatically reducing the need for manual intervention throughout your recruitment process and eliminating the need for any additional marketing or internal recruitment costs. Our expert people provide you with a fast, more cost-efficient staffing solution, regardless of the required notice period, or niche demand.

Give our team a call today to confidentially discuss how we can support your airline’s recovery and ease your aviation recruitment burden on +44 (0)1252 750 400 or email our team at to discuss your options.


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