What the Corona Crisis means for Airline Jobs & Careers

Reflections of a Senior Airline Pilot

What does the result of the Corona Pandemic truly mean for the immediate and distant future of airline jobs and careers?

Millions of worldwide airline employees are currently sitting on pins and needles pondering what will happen to their job and professional career, as a result of the corona crisis.

We, the mostly full-time airline professionals and aviation expert volunteers at Captain Jetson Aviation & Travel Publishing have been receiving an onslaught of emails from our fellow airline colleagues, as well as from young aspiring aviation career individuals:

COVID-19 has unleashed a fury on the airline industry, never before experienced, and far worse than the after-effects of 911.

If decades of full-time, professional wisdom and experience in the airline field carry any weight, here is what we believe the corona crisis means for your airline job and career:

Job security within the airline industry is historically unstable

After more than four decades as a pilot, including 33 years as an airline pilot for a major US airline, I have experienced my share of ups and downs in the industry.

I, like many other veterans of the airline industry, have seen bankruptcies, furloughs, dissolutions, mergers, and 911.

By the way, it took about four years for most major U.S. airlines to recover after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Having experienced the worst experiences of our flying careers, many thought there would never be another 911-type airline financial downturn again.

Then came COVID-19!

When you choose to enter an airline job or an airline career you are also choosing a field that is inherently unstable in terms of job security. Your job is simply extremely sensitive to the economy in general. Thus, we need a “thick skin” to persist and thrive in our line of work.

Demand for airline workers

Two months ago one of the biggest challenges for airlines was how to meet the staffing demand for the rapidly growing airline industry, pilots in particular.

Thanks to COVID-19, approximately 40 of the world’s airlines have grounded their entire fleets. Furthermore, about half of the world’s 26,000 commercial aircraft have been mothballed.

The flying public and passenger confidence

How will an airline convince passengers, or even its own employees, that it’s safe to fly again? Are we likely to see people squeeze onto airplanes with hundreds of strangers in the aftermath of a deadly, viral pandemic?

Airline recovery will most likely take years. People first need to build up the confidence that flying is corona-safe. Air travel won’t bounce back like flipping a light switch after a period of darkness.

What can airline workers expect will happen to their jobs and careers next?

The short answer: Nobody knows, but brace for a likely BRUTAL impact!

Thanks to the CARES Act, in the U.S. major airlines now have money to keep employees on their payroll until October 1.

But, then what?

Starting on October 1, after the terms of the airline stimulus package protecting jobs end it appears we are headed for mass airline furloughs and layoffs, perhaps bankruptcies and airlines going out of business altogether.

Hopefully, we can get to a recovery before the coronavirus situation can claim multiple airline fatalities.


How will layoffs and furloughs take place?

No airline can sustain operation without paying passengers and cargo revenue. With no or drastically reduced revenue, the airline cannot do business. There is no money to pay the employees.

Furloughs and layoffs within the airline industry are mostly determined by the seniority of the employee, among pilots and flight attendants, in particular.

Those employees who were hired last are the first to go. Should the airline dissolve during the crisis, of course, every employee will lose his or her job.

The senior crews still employed could see huge pay cuts, depending on how their employment contract has been set up. Unionized crews should have the best chance of receiving the least negative impact.

One thing for sure is that COVID-19 has solved the short-term problem of the pilot shortage.

What will happen to the airline industry next?

  • We should see good indications of a recovery one to two years after the corona crisis ends. Reaching pre-COVID-19 levels of airline prosperity could take four to five years.
  • We could see airline consolidations and mergers.
  • The brightest (upper management) minds of the airline industry will constantly scramble to adjust to the correct moves necessary to position their airline to the leading position in the post-COVID-19 market.
  • Demand for airline positions will eventually resume to pre-COVID-19 levels.

There is only one captain on a ship (airplane)

Unfortunately, the one in charge of the ship at the moment is one we need to view as an invisible terrorist:


Fortunately, we have the brightest medical minds in the world working hard to eliminate that enemy of all mankind right now.

Optimism and Patience, the Road to Recovery

We will get through this crisis like we always do. Aviation will return and prosper once again.

The difference between the COVID-19 airline crisis and previous airline crises?

The upcoming recovery will take longer than the industry has ever before experienced.

Aviation is only one aspect of the coronavirus crisis. The economy of every aspect of business in the entire world has been hit this time, not just the airlines and air travel.

The key to your success for your airline job and career in the midst of the corona crisis?

Stay optimistic, master your ability to stay patient, figure how to make ends meet for now, and you will come out ahead!

airline jobs and careers corona, SAS flight attendants in the medical field
SAS flight attendants training in the medical field, Twitter.

Featured Image: Unsplash.

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