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Ongoing Backlogs Plague Aviation Industry

February 2022
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Creating a leadership team that can weather the challenges ahead

The dawn of the aviation age brought a new era of human interconnectivity. Between the speed and distance that airplanes could travel, the world instantly became a more connected place.

While airplanes have remained a safe and innovative form of travel since very early in their history, though, they haven’t been the most predictable transportation option. For instance, weather can quickly turn a well-planned network of flight schedules into a quagmire of delays.

In spite of its temperamental nature, though, weather concerns have at least been a fairly well-known challenge for air travel from its inception. However, in recent years, a number of other factors have begun to plague the airline industry as a whole — underlining the need for strong C-suite leadership in the process.

Like so many other areas of the global economy, the aviation industry has had a lot of ups and downs in the past few years. The pandemic initially led to a massive slump in air travel. As quarantines and shelter-in-place orders were put in place, the need for airplanes — particularly commercial ones — dropped to near nil.

As restrictions eased, airlines began to see a new glimmer of hope. Seats began to fill, and before long, a full-scale recovery was under way. But it wasn’t long before a new threat appeared in the form of a strained supply chain.

In the fall of 2021, Reuters reported that many aerospace companies were beginning to see signs of potential supply chain issues. As business picked up again, it became clear that the availability of parts and labor would need to return to pre-pandemic levels if there was going to be any stability going forward.

Then, in late February this year, news outlets reported that the potential supply chain woes had already begun to materialize into reality. One press release announced that, in spite of a smaller amount of requests, Brazilian planemaker Embraer ended 2021 with the biggest backlog of orders since Q2 of 2018 — well before the pandemic began. 

Just a few days before that news broke, American Airlines had announced that it was cutting summer flight schedules. The reason for the reduction? The company was waiting for the delivery of more 787 jets from Boeing Co. — which was struggling with its own delivery concerns.

While there’s little doubt that the post-pandemic recovery is taking place, these ongoing issues are concerning. They reveal some of the deeper damage caused by the last couple of years. Everything will be restored to some sense of normalcy over time, but it may not be as quick of a recovery as originally hoped.

Navigating The Unpredictable In Aviation

The airline industry isn’t the only area of the economy facing serious challenges due to supply chain disruption. For instance, waterborne supply chain issues — exacerbated by things like China’s “zero-tolerance” Covid-19 policies — have plagued the global supply chain for a long time.

In addition, even within the industry, airlines are facing more than the issue of sourcing labor and parts. For instance, tensions between Ukraine and Russia are forcing many companies to adjust flight schedules as they wait for the dangerous situation to be resolved. 

This diversity of concerns, from pandemics to supply chains to geopolitical confrontations, helps to highlight the importance of solid leadership within the airline industry. Having the right C-suite executives at the controls doesn’t just help airlines maximize profits and keep schedules running smoothly. It’s also crucial during unpredictable crises like those listed above. 

The global economy has brought many benefits to the business world. However, it also ties the world together closer than ever before. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the airline industry. Airplanes (and those who build, own, and fly them) bring nations, businesses, and individuals together. This means those in the airline industry also feel the unpredictable impact of disruption sooner and stronger than most others.

With so much at stake, it’s essential that the right people are hired. You need calm, collected, and experienced individuals who can take each challenge in stride and make wise decisions at every step.

At Stanton Chase’s Los Angeles office, we are well-acquainted with the extra pressure that is put on airline executives. We’ve helped major organizations with searches for qualified executives, and in that time we’ve discovered that when the stakes are high, you can’t afford to make the wrong choice — starting with whom you hire.

The airline industry will continue to be at the forefront of supply chain woes, geopolitical disruption, and other challenges going forward. With so much pressure surrounding the industry, you want to have the experience and resources of Stanton Chase by your side as you strive to create a leadership team that is able to survive and thrive as they weather the challenges that lie ahead.

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