The aviation sector is a constantly changing industry that is heavily regulated and employs highly skilled individuals. The UK has the third biggest aviation network in the world, behind the US and China – it is largely privatised and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Changes in technology and the UK’s exit from the European Union are two factors which could impact the sector in the coming years, so anyone looking for a career in aviation should be aware of how it may evolve in the near future.
Employment statistics relating to the UK aviation industry
According to figures published by Statista In 2017, UK based airlines employed 79,464 people worldwide and this figure is likely to have grown since, from that figure 12,354 employees were pilots.
However, it is thought that the sector supports almost one million jobs in the UK both directly and indirectly, contributing over £20bn per annum to the nation’s economy.
The aviation sector supports 961,000 UK jobs, of this 341,000 are within the aviation sector itself, a further 350,000 are supported indirectly through the purchase of inputs from UK suppliers and 269,000 jobs are supported through the payment of wages.
The sector also employs 100,000 skilled British workers and helps fund and conduct valuable technological research that can benefit numerous industries.
Almost 3,500 apprenticeships are supported by the nation’s aviation sector.
Recently the sector has come under criticism for its low numbers in terms of women employed by UK airlines. A report by Reuters last year revealed that top executives in the industry have called for an increased effort to employ more female pilots, mechanics and top managers.
The Airbus Chief of Staff stated that women accounted for 17.5% of the company’s workforce of 140,000, just a 2.5% increase from 2005.
Financial statistics relating to the UK aviation industry
Paying £8.7bn in tax and contributing around £22bn to the UK economy, the aviation industry has a turnover of over £60bn. As of last year, there were over 2000 aerospace businesses in the UK.
The UK’s aerospace manufacturing sector also generates around £36bn in annual exports and experts forecast that the global market could be worth around £3.5 trillion over the next twenty years.
Tourism in the UK is also worth around £54bn to the UK economy annually, in which aviation plays a vital role as over 80% of spending tourists travel by air.
Graduate jobs in the aviation sector
The sector creates numerous opportunities for graduates each year, resulting in more highly skilled workers. For example, British Airways recruited 175 apprentices and 50 graduates through its programmes in 2015 and since 2010 more than 600 apprenticeships have been created with the airline.
Passenger Trends – Although passenger travel continues to grow above the long term 10 year average of 5.5%, it is worth noting that the latest Economic Performance of the Airline Industry report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed a slight drop in passenger demand.
In 2018, demand (calculated by revenue to kilometer) increased by 6.5%, falling from 8% in 2017. The IATA expects this figure to drop further in 2019 to 6%. One possible reason for this could be a change in attitudes to flying, with more and more people becoming more self conscious about their carbon footprint.
Strength of the Market – The majority of analysts are positive in regards to the strength of the aviation market and its growth prospects. Recent trends point towards more younger people showing a desire to travel the world, while the older generation are spending more of their retirement travelling than in previous decades.
However, with the popularity of budget airlines, people are travelling shorter distances and favouring city breaks which would explain the drop in revenue to kilometre figures.
Future challenges within the industry
Geopolitical Factors – Numerous geopolitical issues could potentially impact the global aviation industry, most notably, the on-going US/ Chinese ‘trade war’ which could weaken the global economy and result in weaker traffic growth I.E. less people flying by air.
Closer to home, the UK’s exit from the European Union could result in major changes, particularly if no deal is reached when the UK eventually leaves. This could significantly impact supply chains, flight prices and even result in airline closures in an extreme scenario.
Environmental Pressures – Pressure from investors is motivating airlines to address environmental concerns according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The recent trend of ‘flight shaming’, also known as Flygskam which originated in Sweden is growing, with more people opting to travel long distances by car or train due to amount of carbon emissions released by air travel. If this trend continues to grow then it could significantly impact growth in the aviation sector in the coming years.
Passengers of the future and digital demands – Airports and airlines must deal with passenger’s digital expectations which are much more demanding than 10-15 years ago. The advancements in mobile and digital technologies have resulted in more expectant consumers and the aviation industry will need to adapt quickly to meet the demands of travellers.
Not only do passengers require faster wifi connections, improved entertainment, better information services and an easier check-in/ security experience but technology will also play a more pivotal role in airport/ airline management. Technologies such as virtual modelling and simulation will help airports allocate resources at peak times, guarding against flight delays and making optimal use of the runway.