Coordinated Action in Addressing Operational Aspects of Future Pandemics by the Aviation Industry
By Prof. Dr. Triant Flouris, Executive Director & Professor, The American College of Greece
The aviation industry has experienced many disruptions in the 21st century such as terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and wars. In addition, we have witnessed a number of pandemics including SARS, MERS, H1N1, and most recently COVID-19 all of which have had a significant impact on aviation operations. COVID-19 has created a disruption in the industry on an unprecedented scale and may ultimately infect upwards of a billion people and negatively affect the lives of the majority of the world’s population.
COVID-19 has uncovered interconnections between pandemics and operations in unforeseen ways. Examples of negative outcomes include, among many others, the difficulty of quick response to the crisis, lack of a coordinated response both nationally and globally, and significant disruptions in routine operations. COVID-19 has produced a global shock that influences demand and the entire supply chain and human resource management.
However, the world of aviation is starting to witness operational choices that developed to address the negative impacts of the pandemic such as the introduction of health certificates and the implementation of public health protocols in air travel. Furthermore, a variety of regulatory and de-regulatory responses are being brought to bear, not only to arrest the spread of the pandemic, but also to ensure more resilient responses in cases of future pandemics. Digital information and connectivity are creating novel models of workflow. Tele-healthcare technologies, systems and procedures are becoming best practice in mitigating physical contacts between people. Collection and dissemination of information, and data analytics, are being used for policy design and for production and aviation supply chain coordination.
This pandemic may and more than likely will bring about a new normal, for social and business scenarios across the board and in the aviation industry, regarding the manner in which supply and demand will be matched. Understanding the role of how the management of operations from a risk perspective can affect the development and remediation of pandemics is a critical both from descriptive and prescriptive perspectives.
Industry, government, the healthcare sector and the academe in a coordinated and multidisciplinary manner should explore what could have been done to mitigate and thereby manage the pandemic created by COVID-19 from an operational perspective as best as possible. The following are key areas of inquiry:
a. Public Policy: Public policy that supports testing and quarantine protocols in general and about their application in aviation operations. Coordination among the government agencies, national and international and amongst aviation organizations and healthcare organizations. b. Public-Private Partnership: Development of public-private partnerships to improve rapid response of public health and other government operations; new business ventures’ ability to improve aviation operations in response to a pandemic. c. New Product and Service Development: Accelerated development of products and services that would safeguard in the best manner possible public health in all facets of air travel. d. Operational Configurations: Operations and supply chain continuity; sourcing issues, managing supply chain disruptions, created by a pandemic. e. Capacity Planning: Short-term (including mobile) and long-term capacity for aviation operations matching demand with supply. There is an opportunity to develop flexible service systems that can switch from “regular to irregular outputs.” f. Disease Spread: Short- and long-term forecasting of the pandemic spread, warning signals, role of social media, public and national cultures in containing the spread of disease.
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to create a safer, smarter and more efficient aviation system in the future should be the priority of all stakeholders. An industry, which is already the poster child of safe and efficient operations, should continue to do so by investing in the creation of new operational systems and protocols to manage potential disruptions including pandemics rooted in risk management thinking.
Prof. Dr. Triant Flouris is Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Shipping, and Logistics at The American College of Greece (ACG) and professor of management. Prior to joining ACG, he was provost at the Hellenic American University, Athens, Greece and has also served as Dean for the School of Aviation Sciences at Daniel Webster College (Nashua, NH, USA), founding Director of the CUNY Aviation Institute at York College, Aviation Chair at San Jose State University (California, USA), International Aviation MBA Director at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada), and professor at Auburn University (Alabama, USA). Dr. Flouris has extensive experience in strategic planning and higher education administration. He is the author of nine books, over two hundred refereed journal articles, book chapters, scholarly articles, and public reports. He is a professional pilot and flight instructor with airline operating experience and over 10,000 hours of total flight time.