Airline recovery phases once lockdown is lifted

How would airlines recover once lockdown is lifted? What will happen to ticket prices? When will normalcy return?  Below is my assessment:

Below is an explanation
Phase 1: Resume
Once lock-down is lifted and air travel is permitted, airlines will scramble to assess demand and resume their services.
  • Initial demand will be very high because lots of people want to go back to their families, to work and so on. This sudden burst in demand, along with limited resumption of services will shoot the prices through the roof.
  • There will be some who needs to travel at any cost and will travel despite high corona virus risk and high ticket price. The second wave will probably kick in after a month- of people who want to travel but not that desperate- once they see that ticket price has come down from its peak and those who traveled earlier are doing fine, these people will begin booking.
But this is short lived. Within a month or two, once everyone get back to where they wanted to, demand will drop.

Phase 2: Survive
This is a crucial period for airlines-demand is low, virus risk is still high but there's no lockdown so they are free to operate their planes.
  • If they operate too many planes but not enough load factor they lose more money
  • If they don't operate enough flights, competitor may grab customers. 
  • Those who have already booked ticket will fight for refund as airlines can no longer hide behind credit voucher saying "we can't operate flight because Govt has imposed lock down"
  • Many airlines will run out of their cash in this period. Unless promoters arrange more money or govt gives some aid or airlines manage to cut lots of cost, some airlines may not survive and eventually go bankrupt.
Who will fly?
  • At this point companies might want their employees to travel on work, but most employees are likely to resist- not worth the risk of getting infected or having to spend time in quarantine for company's work. Also airlines could have cut lounge access, in-flight meals and entertainment in order to cut costs and follow social distancing norms, making business travel less attractive to individuals.
  • A few business owners who need to travel desperately might fly. 
  • Bargain hunters may come forward to travel if they spot really cheap tickets. If airlines sell tickets super cheap- like one third or one fourth of regular prices, some deal hunters, brave people will take a risk and book. Low cost airlines like Air Asia, Ryanair etc who have mastered deep discount sales and other airlines ready to sell tickets for dirt cheap might be able to run discount sale and get some bookings this way. Regular tourists will stay away as they need to both accumulate savings to travel as well as overcome the risk of Corona Virus to gain courage to travel.
  • A few people who were issued travel vouchers with 6-12 month validity by airlines against previously cancelled flight might gather courage and plan a short trip, lest they stand to lose their voucher value.
  • There may be some more people willing to fly but the social stigma attached with travel (that it is risky, unnecessary etc), along with possible risk of infection/quarantine or the risk of people around discriminating because of their travel will put these people off. Social acceptance that travel is safe will have a huge impact on how many people will venture to fly.
Phase 3: Recover
Surviving airlines now try to consolidate their position, recover market share and win their passenger back. At this stage assuming Corona Virus Pandemic is largely under control (probably a few hot spots would remain around the world but rest of the world may open up with caution), all other stakeholders in travel industry will come forward to lure their customers back. Hotels, travel agents, cruise liners, OTAs, tourism boards etc would launch multiple initiatives to encourage leisure travel. This would begin enticing people back to flying.

Also long time with no travel would make people restless and many would slowly resume going on trips

Once Corona Virus scare goes away, business/corporate travel will also resume.

Phase 4: Back to Pre-Corona Virus level (Normalcy)
This is the happy state everyone is hoping for. Sooner or later we should be able to achieve this, but it is a factor of
- How long the Corona Virus Pandemic will last
- How many airlines will survive multiple years with low demand and revenue
- Probability of virus coming back and how strict are govts in enforcing sustained precautionary measures.

My rough guess is we are looking at two years time to reach 2019 kind of travel volume, after countries start lifting lock-down and start allowing people to travel. Do share your thoughts.


  1. Being from the airline industry, I think this is a fairly good summary of what the future holds. Well done! You must share this far and wide.

    1. Thanks very much. Have shared on social media channels. Pls share if you can.


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