Nope! It’s not the 72-minute long 2018 documentary composed from the 90 hours of “lost” footage which legendary William Wyler used for his 1943 documentary “The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.”

It is a state that can best describe the air transport industry at the moment. The aviation and airline industry come to mind, especially at this long Lenten weekend, because pre-pandemic each of us, given a chance, would cash in on this opportunity to travel, be it onshore or offshore.

In medical parlance, though, code-blue refers to critical condition that “life support” is necessary. This color status will remain for as long as travel restrictions continue, including the paranoia of travelling due to its tedious requirements.

Because of this unsavory development, it is really difficult to put into equilibrium health and the economy. Some sectors are actually against the lockdown that took effect Monday, while others believed it is for the benefit of the majority. Though, it’s democracy at work, it’s a bit disconcerting. It’s damn if you do, damn if you don’t.

The swirling number of unemployed, which based on latest reckoning jumped to 8.8 percent in February, is worrisome with jobs hard to come by as small companies are trying to survive.  COVID 19 brought companies to their knees, commented Makati Business Club (MBC) president Ed Chua.

The widening unemployment problem is not only isolated in the Philippines. The country’s regional peer, Malaysia, is similarly situated with its unemployment rate reaching 4.8 percent in December 2020. 

In my previous column “Dream On,” I delved into the sorry state of the aviation industry, which suffered humongous losses because of the pandemic. As a result, the so-called reserve-workforce, a politically correct description of unemployment, has swelled.

Based on statistics I’ve received on my wall, aviation analysts forecast a “minimum of 8,000 aircraft” will be grounded by the third quarter of the year, causing unemployed pilots of around 90,000 worldwide. Moreover, there are around 2,670 pilots out of work and 375 planes grounded. This issue is dear to me because travel is one of my passions.

The trickle down effect covers the whole gamut of the airline workforce, from ground handling operations, ground crew, flight attendants, pilots and others employed in auxiliary sectors of airline operations.

Like a house of cards crumbling down, Etihad Airways, the second flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates with head office in Khalifa, Abu Dhabi, is considering, if not already. laying off 720 employees.

Other airlines issuing pink slips are Finn Airways at 2,400; Fiji Airways with 700, including pilots; Virgin Airways at 3,000, including 600 pilots; Singapore Airlines firing 520 pilots; You, firing 4,100; RyanAir laying off 900 pilots with 450 more in the coming months; WizzAir dismissing 1,200 employees, including 200 pilots plus another batch of 430 in the coming months. 

I am disturbed by this unfolding event in the aviation industry. Despite the rollout of the vaccine, concerns about the widespread contamination triggered the authorities to re-impose the lockdown and longer curfew hours, reducing mobility, imposing stringent travel requirements.

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is similarly positioned. Reduction in scheduled flights has been effected reducing as well the usefulness of the pilots and cabin crew. More often, pilots know no other work than flying a plane. They are paid handsomely.

The good old days of living a virtual lifestyle of the rich are gone. Because cash is king, now more than ever, some are disposing their hard assets, which were acquired as an investment, because he could no longer afford to pay for the monthly payments.

There’s “a total change in lifestyle,” explained former PAL President Jaime “JJB” Bautista. It will take four to five years before the aviation industry could return to status approaching pre-pandemic. But its survival is a critical component for the economy to, also, recover. 

Unlike in the previous years, pre-pandemic era when travel bugs tickle me, long Lenten weekend is spent, more often, offshore. Now, I just have to contend with staycation.

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Source: Manila Bulletin (