经济学人双语版-绝境复飞 Terminal conditions

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

LIKE MOST international jamborees these days the Farnborough air show wrapped up on July 24th as a virtual event. Webinars featuring grim-faced executives were not as entertaining as noisy acrobatic displays by fighter jets. But commercial aviation’s most important showcase at least marked a point when heads began to turn away from the devastation wrought by covid-19 and towards what comes next.

和眼下大多数国际活动一样,于7月24日落幕的范堡罗(Farnborough)航空展是一场虚拟聚会。一帮神色凝重的高管在网上开研讨会,这可不及战斗机呼啸着表演特技飞行有趣。但是,商业航空产业这一最重要的展会至少标志着人们开始从新冠疫情造成的巨大破坏中扭过头去,把目光投向未来。

As airlines sell fewer tickets, owing to pandemic travel restrictions or travellers’ fear of infection, the industry that makes flying possible faces a reckoning. Aircraft-makers will make fewer passenger jets and so need fewer parts from their suppliers. Ticket-sellers will see less custom and airport operators, lower footfall. Many firms have cut output and laid off thousands of workers. The question now is how far they will fall, how quickly they can recover, and what will be the long-lasting effects.

由于疫情限制出行或旅客担心感染,航空公司卖出的机票少了,这个实现人类飞行梦想的行业如今面临一次清算。飞机制造商将减产客机,需要供应商提供的零部件也相应减少了。机票销售商将更少人光顾,机场运营商也会看到客流量减少。许多公司已经降低了产出,裁减了成千上万名员工。现在的问题是谷底在哪里、多快能恢复,以及会有什么长期影响。

The airline-industrial complex is vast. Last year 4.5bn passengers buckled up for take-off. Over 100,000 commercial flights a day filled the skies. These journeys supported 10m jobs directly, according to the Air Transport Action Group, a trade body: 6m at airports, including staff of shops and cafés, luggage handlers, cooks of in-flight meals and the like; 2.7m airline workers; and 1.2m people in planemaking. In 2019 they helped generate revenues of $170bn for the world’s airports and $838bn for airlines. Airbus and Boeing, the duopoly atop the aircraft supply chain, had sales of $100bn between them. For the aerospace industry as a whole they were perhaps $600bn. Add travel firms like Booking Holdings, Expedia and Trip.com, and you get annual revenues of some $1.3trn in normal times for listed firms alone, supporting roughly as much in market capitalisation before covid-19—and rising.

航空运输加之航空工业的总体规模庞大。去年,全球共45亿人次乘飞机出行。每天有超过十万架次的商业航班升空。行业机构航空运输行动组织(Air Transport Action Group)的数据显示,这些旅程直接提供了1000万个工作岗位,其中600万个在机场,包括商店和咖啡店的员工、行李搬运工、飞机餐厨师等;270万个在航空公司;120万个在飞机制造企业。2019年,它们分别为全球的机场和航空公司创造了1700亿美元和8380亿美元的收入。空客和波音在飞机供应链中享有双头垄断地位,两家公司的销售额合计1000亿美元。整个航空工业的销售额可能达6000亿美元。再加上缤客(Booking Holdings)、亿客行(Expedia)和Trip.com等旅行公司,在疫情爆发前的正常情况下,仅上市公司的年收入就达到约1.3万亿美元,支撑着差不多同样规模的市值,而且还在不断增长。

Taxiing times

滑行时间

Instead, the coronavirus has lopped $460bn from this market value (see chart 1). Airline bosses are reassessing trends in passenger numbers, which had been expected to double in the next 15 years, just as they had with metronomic regularity since 1988, despite blips after the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 and the financial crisis of 2007-09. Rather than increase by 4% this year, air-transport revenues will fall by 50%, to $419bn. After ten years of unusual profitability the $100bn of total losses forecast for the next two years is equal to half the nominal net profits the industry raked in since the second world war, calculates Aviation Strategy, a consultancy. Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director-general of ACI World, which represents the world’s airports, gloomily predicts that revenues there will fall by 57% in 2020.

然而,新冠病毒把这一市值砍掉了4600亿美元(见图表1)。航空公司的老板们正在重新评估旅客人数的变化趋势,之前的预计是未来15年旅客人数将翻番,保持自1988年以来的非常稳定的增长态势,尽管在2001年911恐怖袭击和2007至2009年金融危机后旅客人数曾短暂下降。今年的航空运输收入将不会像去年预期的那样增长4%,反而会下降50%,跌至4190亿美元。根据咨询公司航空战略(Aviation Strategy)的计算,在连续十年取得不寻常盈利之后,预计未来两年将录得1000亿美元的总亏损,相当于该行业自二战以来获得的名义净利润的一半。代表全球机场的国际机场协会(ACI World)总干事路易斯·费利佩·德奥利维拉(Luis Felipe de Oliveira)悲观地预测,2020年机场的收入将下降57%。

Despite signs of life, particularly on domestic routes in large markets like America, Europe and China, the outlook remains uncertain. The wide-body jets used for long-haul flights stand idle. Carriers that rely on business passengers and hub airports are struggling. Although some American airlines expect a return to near-full operation next year, a second wave of covid-19 could dash these hopes. A small outbreak in Beijing in June set back the recovery in Chinese domestic flights. As one senior aerospace executive says, “It’s hardest to talk about the next 12 months.”

尽管有一些复苏的迹象,尤其是在美国、欧洲和中国等大型市场的国内航线上,但前景仍然不确定。用于长途飞行的宽体客机处于闲置状态。依赖商务旅客的航空公司和枢纽机场正在苦苦挣扎。尽管一些美国航空公司预计明年会恢复到接近全负荷运营的状态,但第二波疫情可能会让这些希望破灭。6月北京的一次小规模复发阻碍了中国国内航班的恢复。正如一位航空业高管所说:“接下来的12个月最难预料。”

According to Cirium, another consultancy, around 35% of the global fleet of around 25,000 aircraft is still parked—less than the two-thirds at the height of the crisis in April but still terrible. Even if traffic recovers to 80% of last year’s levels in 2021, as some optimists expect, plenty of aeroplanes will remain on the ground. Citigroup, a bank, forecasts excess capacity of 4,000 aircraft in 18 months’ time.

据另一家咨询公司Cirium称,全球约2.5万架飞机中目前约有35%仍然停飞,虽然相比4月危机最严重时高达三分之二的比例已有下降,但仍然很糟糕。即使客流量如一些乐观派所预计的那样在2021年恢复到去年水平的80%,仍将有许多飞机无法起飞。花旗银行预测,未来18个月内将有4000架飞机无客可载。

Aircraft-makers, which had been preparing to crank up production, are forced to do the opposite. Airbus, with a backlog of more than 6,100 orders for its A320 jets, was rumoured to be raising output from 60 of the popular narrow-bodies a month to 70. Instead it is making 40. Its long-haul planes have suffered similar declines. Boeing’s situation is made worse by the protracted grounding in 2019 of its 737 MAX, a rival to the A320, in the wake of two fatal crashes. It has kept making the aircraft and hopes to have it recertified for flight later this year. The American firm will slowly increase production to 31 a month by the start of 2022. But like Airbus, it too has announced cuts to wide-body production.

一直在准备提高产量的飞机制造商现在被迫掉头。空客大受欢迎的窄体飞机A320积压了6100多架的订单,之前传言它把产量从每月60架提高到了70架,但实际上它现在月产40架。它的长途飞机的产量也同样下滑。在两次致命的坠机事故后,波音公司的737 MAX(A320的竞争机型)在2019年长时间停飞,这让波音的现状更加棘手。它一直都在生产这款飞机,希望在今年晚些时候获得复飞许可。这家美国公司将缓慢提高产量,到2022年初恢复到每月31架。但和空客一样,它也已宣布减产宽体飞机。

This will open a big gap between what the pair, along with Embraer and Bombardier, makers of smaller regional jets, hoped to sell and what they actually will (see chart 2). According to consultants at Oliver Wyman, by 2030 the global fleet will be 12% smaller than if growth had continued unabated. That amounts to 4,700 fewer planes, which could translate to $300bn or so in forgone revenue for Boeing and Airbus, according to a rough calculation by The Economist.

这将令这两家公司以及小型支线飞机制造商巴西航空工业公司(Embraer)和庞巴迪公司(Bombardier)的预期销量与实际销量之间产生巨大差距(见图表2)。奥纬咨询公司(Oliver Wyman)的顾问称,到2030年,全球飞机总数将比原本持续增长的情况下的数量少12%。据本刊粗略估算,这相当于减少了4700架飞机,可能会让波音和空客公司损失约3000亿美元的收入。

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。

 

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