PROMO | FOUR CORNERS investigates Australia’s aviation crisis and the future of flying

All around the globe, airports that were once thriving busy places are lying virtually dormant.   The previously crowded terminals are silent, the planes are parked in neat rows and no-one knows if air travel will ever be the same.

“It is the biggest crisis the airline industry’s ever seen.”  Airline CEO

“We’ve had flights with more dogs on them than passengers in the last couple of weeks.”  Airport Manager

Aviation is arguably the highest profile casualty of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact has been enormous.

“Aviation is the lifeblood of the economy.  It’s the arteries of the economy that facilitates the carrying on of business and the transport of people for work and for leisure, and of all of our goods. It’s an extraordinary thing to now have that shut down.”  Airport Manager

The aviation crisis has driven Australia’s second major carrier, Virgin, to the point of collapse.  On Monday, the key players explain how things went so wrong so quickly.

“You have a big capital-intensive industry with a lot of people, and you have no revenue. Our revenue went down to a very, very low number very, very quickly.”  Former airline Chair

The program details the battle to keep the airline going, examining why it was vulnerable in the first place and what was driving the refusal of the federal government to step in and directly support Virgin.

“We were all tired. We’d all been working around the clock, seven days a week, 15 to 18-hour days, trying to avoid going into voluntary administration…I knew at that point that we were on our own.”   Airline CEO

Airlines all over the world are struggling to work out how to put passengers back in the skies safely, and affordably.

“Social distancing on an aircraft is not practical anyway…you’d have 22 people on 180 seat aircraft. And that would make the economics non-viable or the airfares would have to be nine times what they are today.”  Airline CEO

The crisis for the aviation industry is so profound that it’s forcing airlines to confront the question – what is the future of flying and will they still have a viable business?

“I actually think our biggest competitor is going to be Zoom and Teams and WebEx and Skype…people in business have discovered that you can actually hold a pretty good business meeting digitally over the screen on your computer or your laptop.”  Airline CEO

It is replayed on Tuesday 30th at 1.00pm and Wednesday July 1 at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iView and at abc.net.au/4corners

Four Corners – Monday 29 June 2020 at 8:30pm on ABC and iview

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