COVID impact on travel more severe than 9/11, financial crisis: Boeing India

Public health, government policies, and consumer confidence are key factors that can affect the recovery of the industry.

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The commercial aviation industry has been perhaps one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, and the recovery is expected to take longer because of the pandemic’s depth and global nature. According to Boeing India president Salil Gupte, the impact as more severe than either the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the global financial crisis.

“We anticipate it will take several years for travel to return to 2019 levels and a few years beyond that to return to long-term trend growth. Yet the fundamentals that have driven air travel for the past five decades remain intact,” he said. “We’ve always seen the industry innovate, respond, and grow over time because of its close connection to the global economy – and of course the desire of people everywhere to fly, when they have the chance.”


  • Travel expected to take several years to return to 2019 levels
  • Operators are adapting, even utilising cargo aircrafts for repatriation flights
  • Boeing retains India as a key supply chain partner

He highlights public health, government policies, and consumer confidence as key factors that can affect the recovery of the aviation industry.

“Airlines have aggressively cut costs by parking thousands of airplanes. In addition, many are moving up retirements of older aircraft to simplify their fleet, improve operational efficiency and reduce maintenance costs,” Gupte said.

“These aircraft retirements will pave the way for future deliveries as airlines seek greater versatility and efficiency in their operations. In many instances, operators are taking advantage of opportunities to grow cargo capabilities to meet demand, by utilizing dedicated cargo aircraft and at times re-purposing passenger aircraft to carry more goods.”

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empty flight travel
Empty flight to Delhi.

Despite Covid-19 induced economic turbulence, aerospace major Boeing plans to maintain its systems and components sourcing activity in India. They currently source components close to $1 billion a year from more than 200 Indian suppliers.

“Our commitment to India remains strong and is for the long term,” said Gupte. “We want to contribute to the growth of India’s aerospace industry; that’s why we’re investing in commercial aviation and defence.”

According to Gupte, Boeing supports the Indian government’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ initiatives by developing Indian enterprises through skills and up-skilling initiatives.

“Through our skilling initiatives, we are training hundreds of pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, technicians, and frontline factory workers across India with our industry partners like Tata, Rossell Techsys, Jaivel and Lakshmi Machine Works,” he said. “With these initiatives, among others, we are focused on creating a robust aerospace and defence ecosystem in India.”

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