A sudden collapse in air travel will reshape a trillion-dollar industry
航空旅行业的突然崩溃将重塑一个万亿美元的产业

绝境复飞 Terminal conditions-书迷号 shumihao.com

With so many aircraft sitting idle and balance-sheets in tatters, airlines are getting rid of planes. Even low fuel prices will not save older, thirstier models. Four-engine wide-bodies are all but finished. On July 17th British Airways (BA) said it would retire all 31 of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets. IBA, an aviation-research firm, expects 800 planes around the world to be retired early.

这么多飞机停飞,资产负债表也一片惨淡,航空公司正在缩减飞机数量。即使较低的燃油价格也救不了那些更耗油的旧机型。四引擎宽体飞机几乎全体下岗。7月17日,英国航空公司(BA)表示准备让自己的31架波音747巨无霸客机全部退役。航空研究公司IBA预计全球将有800架飞机提前退役。

Not all orders will dry up. Airlines, as well as leasing firms, which now own close to half the global fleet, are contractually obliged to take aircraft on order. Many buyers will have made pre-delivery payments of up to 40% of the price. Airbus and Boeing are, to varying degrees, pushing customers to take deliveries. Most negotiations have centred on deferring deliveries. EasyJet, a British low-cost carrier, has pushed back delivery of 24 Airbuses by five years. At Boeing, delays related to the problems of the 737 MAX allow airlines to ask for refunds. More assertively, Airbus’s boss, Guillaume Faury, does not rule out suing customers who renege on their orders.

并非所有订单都会“流产”。根据合同规定,航空公司和租赁公司(目前拥有全球近一半的飞机)必须接收已订购的飞机。许多买家会在交付前支付最高达售价40%的预付款。空客和波音都在以不同的力度催促客户收货。大多数谈判都围绕延迟交付展开。英国廉价航空公司易捷(EasyJet)已将24架空客飞机的交付推迟了五年。在波音,与737 MAX的问题相关的延误允许航空公司索要退款。空客的老板纪尧姆·傅里(Guillaume Faury)态度更明确坚决,不排除可能把拒绝收货的客户告上法庭。

A stock of “white tails”, as unsold planes are known in industry vernacular, may be the price to pay for protecting a supply chain that had been investing heavily for ever-higher production rates. Airbus will make 630 planes this year but deliver only 500, Citigroup reckons. It has the balance-sheet to carry inventory, thinks Sandy Morris of Jefferies, another bank. The new rate will preserve jobs and industrial efficiency, and make an eventual ramp-up easier.

业内行话叫“白尾飞机”的未售出飞机可能是为保护供应链而付出的代价,这条供应链一直在为不断提高生产速度而大量投资。花旗银行估计,空客今年将生产630架飞机,但仅会交付500架。另一家银行杰富瑞(Jefferies)的桑迪·莫里斯(Sandy Morris)认为,空客的资产负债表承担得起库存。新的生产速度将能保留工作岗位,保持产业效率,也会让最终的增产扩容更加容易。

Even this artificially high production will struggle to sustain the planemakers’ supply chain, however. This comprises manufacturers of engines (like Rolls-Royce and GE), producers of fuselages and other parts (such as Spirit AeroSystems), specialised materials firms (Hexcel and Woodward) and companies that produce avionics and electrical systems (including Honeywell and Safran). And that is not counting their myriad smaller suppliers; Boeing’s MAX supply chain stretches to around 600 firms. Many had invested heavily before the crisis, expecting strong demand. Defence contracts, which firms from Airbus and Boeing down are involved in and which covid-19 has not really affected, provide only partial respite. On July 29th Boeing said it had delivered just 20 planes in the second quarter, down from 90 a year ago, and that commercial-aircraft revenues had dropped by 65%, to $1.6bn. The next day Airbus and Safran also disclosed sharp falls in revenue.

但是,即使这种人为的高产也将难以支撑飞机制造商的供应链。组成这条供应链的包括发动机制造商(如罗尔斯·罗伊斯和GE)、机身和其他零部件生产商(如Spirit AeroSystems)、专用材料公司(赫氏[Hexcel]和伍德沃德[Woodward]),以及生产航空电子和电气系统的公司(包括霍尼韦尔[Honeywell]和赛峰[Safran])。这还不包括为数众多的规模更小的供应商:波音MAX的供应链涉及大约600家公司。许多公司在疫情之前预期需求走强而大笔投资。从空客和波音到更小的供应商都有份参与的国防合同并未真正受到疫情影响,但也只能让它们略微喘口气。波音在7月29日表示第二季度仅交付了20架飞机,一年前为90架;商用飞机的收入下滑了65%,降至16亿美元。次日,空客和赛峰也公布收入急剧下滑。

The engine-makers provide a case in point. Besides lower demand for their kit—Rolls-Royce was gearing up to supply 500 units a year to Airbus but will now probably make 250—they face a collapsing aftermarket for spares and fewer overhauls, points out David Stewart of Oliver Wyman. Airlines with in-house maintenance divisions can scavenge parts or whole engines from grounded planes. Rolls-Royce, whose engines power two-fifths of all long-haul jets, has suspended dividends, said it would cut 9,000 jobs and taken a £2bn ($2.6bn) loan. It may have to ask investors for another £2bn. GE’s second-quarter revenues from its aviation business fell by 44%, year on year, dragging down the conglomerate’s overall results.

发动机制造商的境遇很说明问题。罗尔斯·罗伊斯原计划每年向空客供应500台发动机,但现在可能会减少到250台。奥纬咨询公司的戴维·斯图尔特(David Stewart)指出,除了对发动机的需求下滑之外,发动机制造商还面临零部件售后市场崩盘和全面检修次数减少。有内部维护部门的航空公司可以从停飞的飞机上拆下零部件或整台发动机。五分之二的长途飞机上都装有罗尔斯·罗伊斯的发动机。这家公司已暂停派发股息,并表示将裁员9000人,已贷款20亿英镑(26亿美元)。它可能不得不请求投资者再投入20亿英镑。GE的航空业务第二季度收入同比下滑了44%,拖累了集团的整体业绩。

At the other end of the air-travel industry are airports. About 60% of their revenues comes from charges on airlines and passengers, and the rest from things like retail and parking. All are taking a hit. Airport shops and restaurants in America will lose $3.4bn between now and the end of 2021, forecasts the Airport Restaurant & Retail Association. As Mr de Oliveira of ACI World notes, two in three airports were losing money before the crisis; now all are. Some smaller ones may close if subsidies to support tourism from regional and national governments start to dwindle. Outside America commercial operators have not been treated by governments as generously as airlines have.

航空旅行业的另一端是机场。它们约60%的收入来自对航空公司和乘客的收费,其余来自零售和停车等。这些收入来源都在经受冲击。机场餐厅和零售协会(Airport Restaurant & Retail Association)预测,从现在起到2021年底,美国的机场商店和餐厅将亏损34亿美元。国际机场协会的德奥利维拉指出,疫情之前有三分之二的机场在亏损,现在是全体在亏损。如果地方和国家政府支持旅游业的补贴开始减少,一些较小的机场可能会关门歇业。在美国以外的地方,政府对商业经营者没有对航空公司那样慷慨。

In July Standard & Poor’s again downgraded the debt of four European airports, including Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Zurich, and placed London Gatwick and Rome on watch, questioning their ability to raise charges while airlines continue to bleed cash. The rating agency estimates a cut of €10bn ($11.8bn) in planned capital spending by European airports in 2020-23, which may crimp efforts to install contactless technology that could help reassure travellers that terminals are safe to re-enter.

标准普尔7月再次下调了对包括阿姆斯特丹史基浦机场(Schiphol )和苏黎世机场在内的四个欧洲机场的债务评级,并将伦敦盖特威克机场(Gatwick)和罗马机场列入观察名单,质疑它们是否能在航空公司持续亏损的情况下提高收费。标准普尔估计,欧洲机场在2020至2023年间的计划资本支出将削减100亿欧元(118亿美元),这可能会阻碍部署无接触式设施,而这些设施原本有助于消除旅客的疑虑,让他们放心地重新走进航站楼。

As dark as the skies have grown for the air-travel complex, there are some opportunities. Airlines are restructuring. Europe’s big legacy carriers, under pressure from low-cost rivals, are slashing costs. BA has suspended 30,000 workers and wants to rehire them on less generous terms. Bankruptcies and cutbacks will leave gaps in the market, aircraft are cheap, once-scarce pilots are plentiful, and airports will have spare slots, if they are allowed to redistribute them.

尽管航空旅行产业复合体头顶的天空越来越阴沉,但仍有一些机遇。航空公司正在重组。因廉价航空公司而受压的欧洲老牌航空巨头正在大幅削减成本。英航已让三万名员工停职,并希望日后以下调的待遇重新雇用他们。破产和缩减规模将在市场上留下缺口,眼下飞机价格便宜,曾经稀缺的飞行员供应充足。另外,如果允许机场重新分配起降时段,它们将获得空余的时段。

Strong challenger carriers have a chance to gain market share. Wizz Air, a Hungarian low-cost carrier, hopes to add capacity by March; its main markets in central and eastern Europe have been hurt less by the pandemic than those elsewhere, its customers are generally young and less worried about getting on a plane, and two-thirds of demand is related to visiting family and friends, which seems more resilient to covid-19 than business travel is.

那些强大的市场挑战者有机会获得市场份额。匈牙利的廉价航空公司Wizz Air希望在明年3月前增加运力。它的主要市场在中东欧,受疫情的冲击小于其他地方;它的客户主体是年轻人,对乘机出行的担心也更少,而且三分之二的需求是走亲访友,这类出行在疫情中的复原力似乎强过商务旅行。

Some carriers may radically rethink their financial structures, which could help leasing grow even faster. Domhnal Slattery, boss of Avolon, a big lessor, thinks that heavy debts airlines incur to survive the pandemic may convince many of them that they need not own aircraft but should instead concentrate on sales and marketing, just as hotel chains have turned their backs on owning property.

一些航空公司可能会从根本上重新考虑自己的财务结构,从而进一步加速租赁业务增长。大型飞机租赁公司Avolon的老板多姆纳尔·斯莱特利(Domhnal Slattery)认为,航空公司为在疫情中生存下来而欠下沉重债务,这可能会促使其中许多公司认定自己不需要拥有飞机,而应转而专注在营销上,这和连锁酒店不再自己持有物业是一样的道理。

The industry is also rethinking its environmental footprint. Bolder airlines with stronger balance-sheets may use the crisis to renew their fleets, making them greener. They have bargaining power: everything is negotiable, including deferrals, prepayments and price.

航空旅行业也在反思调整自己的环境足迹。资产负债表更稳健也更大胆的航空公司可能会利用此次危机来更新机队,让飞机变得更环保。它们拥有议价能力:现在一切都好商量,包括延期交付、预付款和价格。

Rolling with the punches

因势利导

Warren East, boss of Rolls-Royce, suspects that the “pre-covid call for sustainability will come back stronger than ever”. Airbus is still committed to the journey to zero-emissions flying, Mr Faury says; he sees it as an opportunity. Boeing would have to respond to stay competitive. European governments in particular regard it as a priority. France’s €15bn aid package for its aerospace sector includes a €1.5bn research-and-development fund to help Airbus launch a zero-emissions short-haul passenger jet by 2035 (probably powered by either biofuels or hydrogen). Mr Faury accepts that there is less money to invest. But also, he says, “more need”. The crisis has led to greater collaboration with suppliers that could make innovation “faster, leaner and cheaper” (though that has meant laying off 15,000 workers).

罗尔斯·罗伊斯的老板沃伦·伊斯特(Warren East)猜想,“在疫情前就已开始的对可持续发展的呼吁将比以往任何时候都更强烈”。傅里说空客依然决心实现零排放飞行,他认为这是一个机会。波音将不得不做出回应以保持竞争力。欧洲各国政府尤其重视零排放飞行。法国向航空航天业提供的150亿欧元援助计划中包括一项15亿欧元的研发基金,用于帮助空客在2035年之前推出零排放短途客机(可能由生物燃料或氢驱动)。傅里承认可供投资的资金减少了。但他也说,“需求增多了”。这场危机令飞机制造商与供应商的合作更加紧密,可以让创新“更快、更精简、更便宜”(尽管这意味着要裁员1.5万人)。

China, desperate to become a power in commercial aerospace, may see the disruption as a way to speed up entry into the global market, says Robert Spingarn of Credit Suisse, a bank. He speculates that Brazil’s Embraer, whose merger with Boeing fell apart in April, might collaborate with China’s COMAC to build a plane capable of competing against Airbus and Boeing. The Brazilians could supply the industrial knowhow and the Chinese the industrial might.

迫切希望成为商业航空制造大国的中国或许将这场破坏视为加快进入全球市场的机会,瑞信(Credit Suisse)的罗伯特·斯宾加恩(Robert Spingarn)表示。他推测,巴西航空工业公司与波音的合并在4月告吹后,它可能会与中国商飞合作,制造一款能与空客和波音竞争的飞机。巴西人可以提供工业技术,中国人提供制造实力。

To the masked passengers on half-empty planes, boarded from ghost-town airports of shuttered shops, it may seem that the experience of flying will never be the same again. Yet aviation has bounced back before. It is likely to do so again—and may change for the better in the process. ■

在商店紧闭、空荡荡如鬼城般的机场,戴着口罩的乘客登上只坐了一半人的飞机。在他们看来,飞行的体验似乎永远地改变了。然而,航空业过去也曾从危机中反弹。它很可能还会再次反弹,而且也许会在这个过程中变得更好。