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Research - 08.06.2021 - 00:00

The St.Gallen Aviation and Space Symposium

Organised by Andreas Wittmer and the Center for Aviation Competence at HSG, the digital seminar focused primarily on recovering from the Covid crisis.

8 June 2021. The Center for Aviation Competence at the University of St.Gallen (CFAC-HSG) continued the rich history that St.Gallen has in aviation by offering an online webinar, a sort of teaser event for next year’s full Symposium in St.Gallen that will take place on 2 June 2022.

A part of St.Gallen’s past

The conference started with a look back at St.Gallen aviation history. Walter Mittelholzer, born in St.Gallen, was as a true aviation pioneer. He was one of the first aviation entrepreneurs and was the founder of Ad Astra Aero in 1919, which together with Balair founded Swissair in 1931. In 1913, Henri Kunkler, also from St.Gallen, made the first trial flights in the region and in 1927 started regular flights from St.Gallen to Zurich and Basel.

With this history in mind, and in connection to the 15-year anniversary of the Center for Aviation Competence, Wittmer and his team put together this digital platform to provide insight into aviation and research in the sector. The day’s discussions specifically addressed current challenges in aviation.

Moving on from Covid

The main topic of the day was the short-term challenges brought on by the Covid crisis. In the not-so-distant past, the CFAC institute conducted a few studies that looked at challenges dealing with the environmental impact of aviation and infrastructure issues. However, the onset of COVID-19 dramatically changed priorities in the industry.

Now the main questions are consumer behavior post-Covid for both business and leisure journeys.

Business and leisure travel

What studies showed is that business travel is likely not to return to 2019 levels for the foreseeable future. Projections estimate that intercontinental business travel will experience a 20% reduction, and inter-European air travel will stay at 30% below the volumes they saw pre-pandemic.

Air travel for leisure, the studies found, will be less affected by the crisis and will return much more quickly to pre-Covid levels.  People’s desire for travel and vacations abroad seems to be stronger than the risks associated with Covid.

Larger, domestic markets such as China and the USA, expect that air travel will reach 2019 level again soon. This is driven by consumer desire to travel and airlines creating good offers to stimulate the market.

Unpredictable factor

There is a major concern that could affect the industry’s recovery. It has to do with how the industry itself, which is privately managed, interfaces with various government regulations and policies that concern Covid. As individual countries decide for themselves which kind of air travel will be allowed and what the quarantine and vaccination rules will be for travelers from different areas of the world is very much a wild card in predicting industry recovery.

Image: Adobe Stock / frank peters

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