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December 26, 2019

What's Next For Commercial Aviation in 2020?

In 2019, the big story in the aviation industry was two Boeing (News - Alert) 737 Max crashes, six months apart. Following these tragedies, a number of airlines pulled the Boeing 737 Max from their schedules until Boeing itself finally became proactive and suspended production. 

The grounding of these planes caused a significant shortfall in seat capacity around the world, which ultimately benefited many airlines since demand exceeded supply. Expect that trend to continue in 2020, commercial aviation experts say.

What else is ahead for airlines and aviation in 2020? Here are some trends to watch out for:

  • Labor shortages: “Boeing’s prediction that over the next 20 years North America alone will require 212,000 more pilots is becoming a reality,” notes Jeffrey Carrithers, CEO of, the internet’s largest aviation resource.

The pilot deficit is already making an impact, particularly upon smaller, local carriers. Jetstar Japan canceled 70 flights in 2019, citing pilot shortage, and the British regional airline flybe blamed a series of cancellations affecting its Scottish market on a similar cause. This labor shortage will do much to increase the number of passenger headaches as an increasing number of flights are sidelined.

  • The rise of premium economy: Premium economy class doesn’t sport the flatbed seating and elegant china you’ll find in business class, but it’s 65 percent cheaper, and it does have five to seven inches more legroom than economy. Plus, it has dedicated power chargers so your iPhone (News - Alert) battery won’t run down right in the middle of your movie. The implementation of premium economy represents a growing interest in catering to passengers who want to customize their flying experience.
  • Faster security checks: Ask most American passengers what they hate the most about flying, and they’re likely to answer, “The TSA security line.” Advances in screening and detection technology may soon change that, however. Computerized tomography is beginning to be deployed to examine carry-on bags, and AI-powered scanners that can distinguish weapons and explosives from ordinary items are being tested in U.S. airports. Does that mean you’ll soon be able to keep your shoes on when you go through the scanner and begin carrying liquids and gels in your carry-on luggage again? It’s a distinct possibility.
  • Green flights: Air travel accounts for more than 2 percent of all carbon emissions, and that percentage is growing. To help decrease its global footprint, the commercial airline industry is ramping up its use of sustainable biofuels. United Airlines, for example, is purchasing 15 million gallons of renewable jet fuel from AltAir Fuels, a Los Angeles-based refinery. The commercial aviation sector is also investigating the use of lighter-weight aircraft and looking into engineering tweaks that will reduce overall aircraft fuel consumption.

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