Alright, so maybe some people are just starting to talk about. But for the most part, most people are thinking Coronavirus is going to result in a huge backlog in training that’s going to leave us short staffed for the rest of our careers. In actuality, it’s going to be the complete opposite. We are about to be grossly overstaffed. Here’s my thesis:
- The traffic isn’t coming back. Not next year, or the year after that. Definitely not in the next 10 years but if I was a betting man, which I am, I would go out on a limb and say traffic will never return until there is a shift in policy in Washington (not going down that rabbit hole right now). The economic destruction caused by Coronavirus and the extremely reckless fiscal and monetary policies that follow are going to completely decimate the U.S. consumer. With everything from mass layoffs to mass inflation, very few people are going to be able to afford to fly for leisure. Many people were living paycheck to paycheck before all of this, and aren’t going to be able to be in a rush to go out and spend money. Furthermore as consumers begin to feel the reverse wealth effect (i.e. they start feeling poorer once their 401k is cut in half and their home equity vanishes), the consumers that haven’t lost their jobs will also cut back.
- I’d imagine many of the weekend warriors flying out for $100 hamburgers are going to cut back as the economic hardships set in.
- Private jets are very expensive to own and operate so many companies will look to cut back on discretionary travel where they can. With the emergence of e-meetings on Zoom, companies are discovering that many of the in-person business meetings that used to occur can be accomplished virtually without much difference in result.
- Even if all the restrictions are lifted and the consumer isn’t wiped out as much as I think they’ll be, not many people are eager to hop on a packed plane until a vaccine comes out. I saw a poll that something like 85% of people still won’t be comfortable getting on a plane in close proximity to strangers. To the extent, that airlines try to social distance and space out passengers, the less capacity they will have and the more they will have to charge for individual seats, further crushing whatever little bit of demand there is to fly.
- It costs the airlines millions of dollars to store and maintain the planes that are grounded. If they don’t have the demand to fly them, it makes more sense to retire or try to sell many of the older planes in their fleet. You have to think we’ve probably seen the final days of many of these older commercial airliners in favor of the more fuel efficient, newer models. Reduction in fleet sizes will naturally decrease potential amount of flights in the NAS.
Tl;dr of these top 5 points is that traffic isn’t coming back.
- From the FAA side, most facilities are running 5/5 or 5/10 schedules and are actually OVERSTAFFED on these configurations. Take N90 as an example… DankVectorz said his area of 5 sectors is combined up to 1 sector all the time now and they have 4 people on his crew. That’s enough staffing to cover 1 person on sick leave and another could bang out on each shift and they’d still be fine. This is N90! The worst staffed facility in the NAS is suddenly overstaffed overnight even with CPCs there working half of the hours that they used to work. Even if we see a small bounce back in traffic, maybe they have to combine to 2 positions instead of 1 but if that’s the case they would likely be on a normal 5/2 schedule by then and would still be overstaffed. The FAA is about to be very overstaffed at all of the previously understaffed places i.e. N90, C90, LAX, ZNY, etc… One day in the not so distant future, those guys won't remember the days when spot leave was unavailable or what a 1 day weekend looked like.
- The FAA isn’t going to suspend training forever. Eventually, training will start back up on whatever traffic we have at that point. With such reduced traffic, success rates at historically difficult places will likely go up. Can you imagine N90 and ZNY success rate going up to like 65%? With the amount of trainees in house right this second, they wouldn’t need any new bodies for a decade.
I think that pretty much about sums it up. What does that mean for our future? No one can be too sure. As for these trainees bitching about not being able to train and the pandemic delaying your raise… suck it up. You’re about to get certified on easy traffic and make the same money to work maybe 20% of the traffic those before you have worked. You are lucky to even have a job during all of this, not to mention the #bestjobintheworld. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing more and more consolidations and closures all together as result of this. I am definitely expect a complete hiring freeze and while I don’t think they’re going to do early buyouts, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see trainees that are still on probation be let go. It’s an unfortunate situation, but as a self proclaimed realist with a solid understanding of basic economics, this is really the only possible outcome I can see unfolding.