Reports have been released this week from air traffic control providers displaying the ‘strong’ recovery from Covid-19 within the aviation sector over the past year.
Following the lifting of many Covid related travel restrictions in March of 2022, the aviation sector has been steadily resuming what is recognised as its regular service. Though numbers are not yet back to 2019 levels, the air traffic control organisation, NATS, has shown excitement for the great progress that has been made.
According to their reports, NATS handled 2.24 million flights between March 2022 and March 2023. This is an increase of 75% from the same period the year before, showing a fantastic recovery from the aviation sector in just the span of one year.
NATS stated, however, that they expect a full recovery within aviation to take anywhere up to a decade to balance the income shortage they suffered within the air traffic control organisation. Like many others, NATS suffered a large loss of income due to the Covid pandemic drastically reducing incoming and outgoing flights in the UK.
The organisation released a statement which said, “Flights recovered strongly after the lifting of travel restrictions in March 2022. Nats’ planning for recovery, whereby it retained critical skills and delivered simulation training, enabled it to support a safe regeneration and meet all its safety targets.
“While the result this year reflects the start of the sector’s recovery after the Covid pandemic, as for the results of the last two years, it is not yet supported by the equivalent level of debt-adjusted cash flow generation. This is because Covid suppressed flight volumes and income receipts.
“Nats expects that, for the regulatory allowances outstanding, the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] will require their recovery over 10 years from 2023 to support the sector’s recovery.”
Following consultations and the displayed recovery of the aviation sector, the CAA is expecting to make a decision on price controls this summer, kicking off a new period of recovery for the aviation industry.
Dr Paul Golby, the Chairman at NATS, said, “It is essential that the CAA’s final decision later this summer provides the resources necessary to support the sector’s recovery and for sustainable investment in the UK’s ATC [air traffic control] infrastructure and recovery of the costs we incurred to provide a continuous ATC service during Covid.”
Martin Rolfe, the Chief Executive, added, “It was a welcome relief to see air traffic volumes recover strongly last summer following the lifting of Covid travel restrictions.
“We had made a conscious decision during the pandemic to retain the essential skills to support the recovery. This meant we were able to ramp our operation back up very quickly and safely support the level of demand.
“Our result this year also reflected the start of the sector’s recovery after the Covid pandemic but, as with the results of the two previous years, it is not yet supported by the equivalent level of cash flows on a debt-adjusted basis.
“Given its scale, we expect that the CAA will require the income shortfall we experienced during Covid to be recovered over an extended 10-year period.”
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