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5 key threats that could impact your airline and how to mitigate them

As vast and dominant as it may be, the aviation industry is not immune to crises around the world. From geopolitical conflicts to war zones and pandemics, aviation will always feel the impact of global disruptions on its operations sector wide. The Covid-19 pandemic alone grounded two-thirds of the global fleet, with revenues per passenger kilometre (RPK) dropping 66% (2020) and 58% (2021) compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Regardless of how well prepared an airline may be, it’s virtually impossible to avoid unexpected disruption. As a result, the aviation industry is extremely vulnerable to global events or conflicts, forcing many airlines to change their business strategies and structures to survive the impact of these threats. In addition, the current global talent shortages are exacerbating these challenges.

boarding on plane

The aviation industry is vital in our modern world, connecting nations for travel and trade, and facilitating economic growth through air cargo. No country can thrive or survive without it. Almost all nations have international airports and bilateral agreements to allow them to use the airports of other countries. However, the aviation industry's vulnerability to global events emphasises the need for effective strategies to manage risks and ensure resilience.

Aside from the threat of future pandemics, brought to the very front and centre of the conversation due to Covid-19, there are other threats facing the industry. In this article, we identify five of those key threats and suggest ways to mitigate or lessen their impact.

5 key threats impacting airlines and the aviation industry

1. Global talent shortages

flight and cabin crew

The need for skilled aviation workers has intensified over the years as the industry has observed a decline in people entering the industry, leading to severe talent shortages sector wide. Airbus estimates that the industry will need 585,000 new pilots by 2041, while Boeing suggests that the industry will need to hire and train 649,000 pilots for the same period to keep pace with rising demand. Our role as expert recruitment consultants puts us in a good position to assist airlines in their quest for talent. Our large and diverse candidate pool allows us to explore a variety of skillsets to match the right candidates with the most suitable role in whatever aviation sector you need.

It's important to remember that aviation staffing shortages are not exclusive to pilots, or those working directly inside aircraft. Airport personnel, air traffic controllers, aircraft engineers and many other niche, highly-skilled roles are also short in numbers. As the industry battles these shortages, recruitment efforts have increased with expert recruitment support playing an essential role in combating these global talent shortages.


Our recent whitepaper on the engineers skills shortage gives an in-depth industry analysis of  the challenges aviation faces with the lack of licensed engineers. You can also find out some of the solutions that we propose in an effort to resolve key labour shortages.

2. Geopolitical instability

Geopolitical unrest between countries or regions such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza wars are a major contributing factor to the disruption of aviation’s operations. The effects are not only devastating on a humanitarian scale but they are detrimental to the economic stability of the aviation industry within those countries and beyond. For example, easyJet reported a £40 million loss in the last quarter of 2023 due to booking slowdowns and cancellations. Likewise, Wizz Air reported a €90.20 million loss due to the conflict and supply chain issues, which remains an ongoing challenge in the industry.

These financial setbacks are just one aspect of the broader impact of geopolitical instability on aviation, which includes concerns about passenger safety, route adjustments to avoid conflict zones, increased insurance costs, and diminished investor confidence. While the examples above are from European airlines, global carriers face similar challenges.

3. Security threats and terrorist attacks

Security in aviation is held at the highest standards with strict regulatory bodies overseeing each country’s adherence to aviation safety and regulation protocols. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the aviation industry made a turn in its safety procedures. The tragic events of 9/11 exposed vulnerabilities in airport security and aircraft hijacking prevention measures, prompting a comprehensive reassessment of security practices.

Since then, airports worldwide have implemented stringent security regulations, including the

introduction of advanced x-ray screening technologies for passengers and luggage, metal detectors, and reinforced cockpit doors in aeroplanes. In addition, all aviation personnel are now required to undergo security background checks, and obtain a security clearance before they are allowed to work in aviation.


Despite these efforts, criminals have become more sophisticated in their attacks with the use of other more contemporary means such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Drones are often used for commercial purposes or as a hobby, however they have been exploited for malicious purposes. For instance, in 2018, a group of unknown individuals launched a drone attack at London Gatwick airport, causing significant disruption. The airport experienced runway shutdowns, flight diversions, and the cancellation of over 1,000 flights as the airport remained closed for 33 hours following the attack.

4. Increased pressure to transition to the use of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel)

The industry is under immense pressure to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, primarily through the use of SAF. While necessary, the task is extremely challenging for airlines as it requires large investments in new and innovative technologies to reduce reliance on traditional fuel. The industry would then need to hire a pool of heavily qualified individuals to conduct training on how to use SAF effectively.

zero emissions

This process is soon set to become reality within reach as in September 2023, the EU parliament voted in favour of increasing the use of SAF at EU airports. With the requirement set to increase from just 2% in 2025 to a staggering 70% by 2050, airlines will face immense pressure to rapidly transition to sustainable fuel sources or risk facing severe penalties and regulatory hurdles. Failure to adapt to this mandate could result in increased operational costs, loss of competitiveness, and potential backlash from environmentally-conscious consumers and stakeholders.

Airlines must take immediate action to mitigate this threat by investing in research, development, and infrastructure for sustainable aviation fuels.

5. Human error or natural disasters

With aviation systems becoming increasingly automated, changes in training procedures are necessary. Even experienced pilots who have achieved great milestones in their career need to keep up to date with the technological advancements that aviation introduces and implements throughout the years. With AI growing more prevalent in system technologies, the industry is expected to undergo reforms in its flight plans, fuel consumption, emissions, training, and day-to-day tasks in other sectors such as maintenance and engineering, along with ways of dealing with natural disasters. As the industry evolves, systematic training is vital in preventing human error, and upskilling employees to the level required to continue to fulfil their job duties with optimal safety.

Natural disasters are one of the most serious, yet unavoidable threats that the aviation industry faces. Despite their rarity, they can impact infrastructure, operations, safety, and profitability. Inadequate flight planning before, during, or even after an environmental catastrophe can result in disastrous consequences for passengers and airlines alike. In such cases, aviation meteorologists are instrumental in assessing risks and providing accurate and timely weather reports to prevent fatal accidents and economic upheavals for airlines.

Recent natural disasters have presented challenges for the aviation industry such as the Icelandic volcano eruption on 16 March 2024, in the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. Unlike 2010’s volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull,  which filled the sky with ash clouds, creating a hazardous environment for aircraft and costing airlines an estimated $3 billion, the recent incident posed less risk to travellers as the lava flow only affected the surrounding areas. In such cases, communication is key as it enables airlines take proactive measures to avoid danger.

plane on flooded ground

However, in the midst of natural disasters, various factors can hinder effective communication in navigating solutions. A prime example is the Dubai flooding that occurred just over a month after the Icelandic volcano eruption. Dubai International Airport was in a state of chaos after the cancellation of around 1,000 flights, leaving crowds of passengers stranded at the airport with limited information. Dubai’s flagship carrier, Emirates, received criticism for mishandling the event, mainly due to its lack of clear communication, resulting in airport chaos and confusion.

How to minimise the impact of global threats to your airline

Although airlines can’t prevent disruptions or natural disasters from happening, they can take steps to minimise their impact.

1. Develop strong, pragmatic aviation leaders

executive search

In times of extreme turmoil, strong leadership is crucial for navigating challenges effectively. Experienced leaders possess qualities such as decisiveness, strategic thinking, effective communication, and economic aptitude, which are essential for managing complex situations. Finding such specialist skills is challenging due to their scarcity in the aviation industry.

Here at AeroProfessional, we have a dedicated specialist executive search service, enabling you to access a large pool of well-established C-level candidates who can assist in setting up effective risk management strategies for your airline. Our recent whitepaper provides  valuable insights into the qualities and expertise necessary for effective leadership in aviation.

2. Build sustainable talent pipelines and training programmes

Having people with the right skillset and industry knowledge is essential for the success of any business. To ensure that your hiring strategy meets this standard, it’s important to follow a proactive and mindful approach to target and retain suitable candidates. You can achieve this by partnering with a reputable recruitment consultancy to help you source the best aviation talent to meet your airline’s needs.

Using the expert support of a recruitment consultancy can introduce several best practices in creating sustainable recruitment strategies. These include building relationships with potential candidates across various aviation sectors, prioritising a positive candidate experience, developing programmes that align with your pipeline needs, using candidate feedback for continuous improvement, and creating effective retention plans.

Depending on your airline’s hiring needs, you can explore different recruitment services to optimise your hiring process, and secure the necessary skillsets for your organisation.

3. Enhance security measures

Security, particularly cyber security, is an ever-evolving field, especially in aviation, where new technologies continuously emerge. Staying ahead of these changes is crucial, requiring airlines and aviation regulation authorities to invest in training, along with reassessing their procedures regularly. Moreover, airports need to enhance security measures to prevent malicious attempts to disrupt operations worldwide.

As the geopolitical scene grows more unstable, the aviation industry becomes increasingly vulnerable to security breaches and threats. Therefore, it’s vital for airports around the world to invest in new technologies such as drone detection systems and CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) sensors to prevent potential air strikes or threats.

background checks

Moreover, offering frequent GDPR training to relevant aviation personnel can help prevent data breaches. These breaches could result in massive fines, causing financial setbacks for airlines, and reputational damage. Here at AeroProfessional, we take security and compliance extremely seriously, ensuring that all our candidates adhere to the highest industry standards during the onboarding process. We work in tandem with our partner company, IDGateway, an experienced ID and vetting service provider that performs thorough background checks using next generation software.    

4. Develop effective risk management strategies

Due to the dynamic nature of the aviation sector, a crisis could arise at any time. Planning ahead is crucial to maintaining smooth operations, rather than waiting to react in real time. By identifying potential risks and assessing their impact, the industry can develop systematic approaches to minimise disruption.

Airlines can achieve this with the help of their risk management teams who can research various data sources such as accident reports, incident data, expert opinions, law enforcement updates, as well as trustworthy international news outlets to analyse the political situation across high risk regions.

The bottom line

As the aviation industry evolves, it becomes increasingly prone to risks and threats from around the world. With passenger travel demand rising and airports getting busier than ever, strict security measures and strategies are paramount. Although predicting crises or sudden global incidents is difficult, airlines can protect themselves from these five key threats, including financial and operational impacts, by planning and implementing proactive measures to reduce their exposure.

The AeroProfessional team are specialists in the recruitment and selection of aviation professionals across the globe. Reach out to the team today to discuss your current hiring challenges and gain the expert advice and guidance you need to ensure your hiring strategy gains maximum success.


Looking for your next aviation role?

Every year we help hundreds of individuals find rewarding new roles within the aviation industry. Working with a variety of airlines from across the world, we provide an end-to-end service that matches you with the right aviation role, in the right organisation.


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