The pandemic has an extremely negative impact on civil aviation. Passenger flows have plummetd not only to and from Bulgaria, this is a global problem, especially strongly felt on a European scale. Such a catastrophic situation has probably not happened since World War II.
This said in an interview with BGNES Yovko Yotsev, who is general secretary of the Association of Bulgarian Airlines (ABA).
The most difficult for the airlines in our country are the current months. “This is because it has already been nearly 10 months since the pandemic began and the resources of the airlines are completely exhausted as long as they are unable to receive fresh revenues,” Yotsev said.
Preliminary data of the Association of Bulgarian Airlines on passengers transported to and from Bulgaria show a sharp decrease: for Sofia Airport about 60%, for Varna airport – about 70%, for Burgas airport – about 85%.
“Unfortunately, this is a really drastic decline,” the ABA general secretary summed up, adding that it also meant fewer planes taking off and fewer flight hours for the pilots themselves.
“In an effort to reduce their costs airlines cut down the number of aircraft they offer on the market, but the actual load on aircraft is lower than in previous years. Because the load factors of the aircraft themselves are significantly lower, the number of aircraft taking off and landing has also decreased, but on a smaller scale vs the reduction in passengers trnasported.
For example, as for Bulgaria,it can be said that that the number of flights has plummeted by about 50%, which means that the number of hours in the air has decreased by approximately as much,” he said.
Thus, Yovko Yotsev pointed out that on average the pilots in Bulgaria have twice less flight hours in 2020 as compared to 2019.
“These are, of course, rough estimates. There is a big difference between the individual pilots in individual airlines, even within an air company there may be a big difference, because the carriers themselves prefer in these difficult conditions to fully maintain the training of some of the crews, and the other crews are currently in “hot reserve,” he said. “What we have now is a paradoxical situation – at a time when airlines revenues have severely reduced, if they have revenues at all, we have higher costs to maintain staff qualification.
However, these are the requirements to air carriers and we have no choice. There’s a series of training requirements for a pilot for performing a flight, let’s say, tomorrow. Among them to have at least 3 take-offs and 3 landings within the last three months – it is the minimum and the rule applies in extremely critical situations, very rarely pilots find themselves in a situation when they cannot meet this requirement. There is also a requirement to maintain a huge number of skills, numerous courses help to keep on a par the qualification of the pilot and cabin crew and they cannot be terminated, this must be done anyway”, stressed Yovko Yotsev.
“The question is how quickly airlines will be able to respond to a possible expansion of the market. I’m afraid, however, that this expansion will take quite a while. The estimates of many experts are that in 2021 we will reach levels in the order of 50% of the flights performed in 2019, and the full recovery of the will eventually happen around 2024”, Yotsev forecasts.