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Understanding COVID-19’s impact on the airline sector

Respond with resiliency: Guidelines for airline executives

It is incumbent upon today’s generation of airline sector leaders to address the COVID-19 crisis boldly and decisively. Explore five core tenets of crisis leadership that can help airline executives address and respond to coronavirus pandemic’s impacts on the airline sector.

Five crisis leadership tenets to help address COVID-19’s impact on the airline sector

The rapid global spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), widening travel restrictions, and the plunge in demand for air travel are shining a light on the five core tenets of crisis leadership that can help the airline industry respond to the coronavirus pandemic with resiliency and move forward with confidence:

  • Speed over elegance: Decisive action—with courage—is often more essential than getting it perfect.
  • Mission first: Stabilize today, and harness both the energy and constraints of volatile conditions to spark innovation tomorrow.
  • Design from the heart: Seek and reinforce solutions that align to your purpose and societal obligations and that serve the heart of the organization.
  • Own your narrative: Paint a picture of a compelling future and path forward that your stakeholders can support and rally around.
  • Embrace the long view: Focus on what’s on the horizon to instill confidence and steadiness across your ecosystem.

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Understanding COVID-19’s impact on the airline sector

Overcoming the COVID-19 crisis

Rising to the challenges of a crisis is nothing new to airlines and the broader aviation and travel sector. Just as the industry has overcome past health epidemics, economic recessions, unfortunate safety incidents, and other debilitating events, it too will overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

The actions that government, industry leaders, and individual airlines take during this period will influence how deep the crisis reaches, how long the effects last, how quickly the industry recovers, to what extent the industry will be transformed, and which companies will emerge relatively stronger than their peers.

It is incumbent upon today’s generation of leaders to address COVID-19’s impact on the airline sector boldly and decisively. This requires taking swift and aggressive action, embracing new ways of working and thinking, and—perhaps most importantly during this crisis—communicating empathetically, thoughtfully, and transparently with employees, customers, shareholders, and the public at large.

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Preparing to thrive post-coronavirus pandemic: Actions to consider

It is important to note that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach or playbook for leaders to follow. Rather, they have an array of choices to make, some easy and some hard, based on their business's unique position and needs. Actions that airline boards, executives, and leaders should consider as they respond, recover, and prepare to thrive in the new normal include:

  • Putting people first
  • Transforming the supply chain
  • Adapting to consumer shifts
  • Leveraging loyalty
  • Reimagining partners
  • Repurposing people and assets
  • Recalibrating investments
  • Protecting the brand
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