Coronavirus: Aerospace industry 'will take years' to recover

By Sarah Dickins
BBC Wales economics correspondent

Planes at Cardiff airportImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
British Airways is among many airlines that have seen passenger numbers shrink and bookings collapse

It will take years for Wales' aerospace industry to get back to where it was before the coronavirus pandemic, the body representing companies has said.

Aerospace firms employ 23,000 people in Wales in 160 businesses.

Industry body Aerospace Wales said the dramatic reduction in flights was a real challenge.

It comes as Wales' single largest aerospace employer Airbus confirmed it was cutting production at its wing factory.

Airbus said it had released 500 temporary staff at its sites in Broughton, Flintshire and Filton in Bristol.

The remaining workforce has had its Easter break extended to 20 April.

The cuts are because of reduced demand for the wings made in Wales for planes assembled in Spain, France and Germany .

The firm employs about 6,000 people at the site in Broughton, and the company confirmed it was cutting production by one third because of coronavirus, saying its priority is to protect its people.

Image caption,
John Whalley has warned it may take time to recover

Aerospace Wales' John Whalley warned: "There will be a recovery but it may be a couple of years to get back to where we were a couple of weeks ago."

Mr Whalley said he was basing his estimations on experience with the Sars pandemic and the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.

"This is steeper and longer but I think air travel will recover," he said.

"Maybe some businesses will go for more video conferencing but overall people will want to travel.

"The big concern is when we come through this crisis, we reset and restart - what will the world be like?"

In Bridgend, Spectrum Technologies usually employs nearly 60 highly skilled engineers and software designers involved in the complicated wiring systems of planes.

It sells to aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers.

Chief executive Peter Dickinson said: "Whereas in 9/11 fleets were grounded for three days, these aircraft have been on the ground for weeks now and so they [the airlines] are going to be losing huge amounts of money and it is a question of when the public will travel again.

"How are people going to be reassured that they can get on a plane and get to their destination without being infected by the virus?

"And if people don't start travelling again in reasonable numbers, it's going to have a huge impact on airlines."

Image source, Peter Dickinson
Image caption,
Peter Dickinson believes the industry will be affected for two years

Mr Dickinson agreed it would take about two years for the commercial airline industry to recover.

He said his company was putting 20 employees on the UK government's furlough scheme to pay 80% of their wages, which his company tops up to full pay.

The International Air Transport Association warned 25 million jobs are at risk globally because of plummeting demand for air travel.

It says the months between March and June are the most crucial for the industry and it expects demand to be down by 70%.

The Welsh Government said the industry creates thousands of highly skilled employment opportunities, world class training and cutting-edge research, innovation and development.

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