COVID-19: Pandemic brings importance of business continuity plans into stark focus

David Whitely by David Whitely | Mar 24, 2020

Like any operational business environment, the potential for events to disrupt normal business operations at airports is an ever-present possibility in all regions.

Airport operators have long recognized the need for robust business continuity management plans.

Effective business continuity strategies can safeguard passengers and the airport community, enable the delivery of services to customers, sustain commercial revenue streams, and protect infrastructure.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything in this area, however, it is that business continuity plans can never be an ‘off-the-shelf’ exercise.

While plans and the approach to business continuity should be tailored to the circumstances of events and the individual airport, the industry is currently facing a challenge to its business like none that have come before.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge to the aviation industry

Aviation is highly impacted by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with CNN this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), called the COVID-19 pandemic “worse than 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008” and said the uncertainty now is worse than the feeling of uncertainty of more attacks after 9/11.

Airports Council International – North America this week also released an updated financial forecast today that projects U.S. airports will lose at least $13.9 billion in 2020 and ACI expects losses to mount as passenger and cargo traffic continues to slow in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Airline leaders have also stressed that the upheaval and effect on the aviation industry is far in excess of any crisis that has come before.

While airport operators remain first and foremost concerned with protecting the health and welfare of travellers this time, it is important to note that they are also businesses in their own right with significant costs to bear, debts and obligations to fulfill, and services to deliver.

So how can they best respond to protect their business in these times but also prepare to recover as the pandemic is controlled?

ACI World Business Continuity Handbook

Last year ACI World launched a guidance handbook on business continuity management which was written to help airport operators maintain the flow of passengers and goods in the event of an emergency or other disruption.

The Airport Business Continuity Management Handbook provides best practices, and a useful summary of actions that airport operators can undertake to create a robust business continuity plan in order to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to and recover from possible events that may interrupt normal business operations.

Airport Business Continuity Management Handbook
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The handbook provides guidance to help airport operators to assess and recover from the disruption currently affecting their businesses.

It will guide them through the process of conducting risk assessments to help develop and implement new business continuity plans to fit the current situation.

The handbook also provides several case studies and best practices.

But even as individual airports do all they can to weather the storm, what the global aviation industry needs is a coordinated, fair and equitable policy response.

These exceptional circumstances require an exceptional response from Governments to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on aviation should be borne equitably among all stakeholders, and all solutions should be fair, reasonable and proportionate to the current situation.

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David Whitely

David Whitely

Senior Director, FTI Consulting
David Whitely is a ACI World Business Partner with more than 25 years’ experience in journalism, corporate, media, and public relations in the UK, Canada and Australia. He has held in roles with HSBC, and with the governments of the UK and Western Australia. In aviation, David has served in the senior leadership teams of London Gatwick Airport and ACI World. He is currently a Senior Director with FTI Consulting based in the Asia-Pacific region and supports clients on strategic communications matters including ESG, crisis and reputation management, and change communication.
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