Complex Made Simple

The world and Covid-19: Ghost planes, races with no spectators, and offices with empty desks

The Coronavirus outbreak has put a curb on major gatherings of people, and cast a shadow on future major events.

Schools are closed, planes are ringing hollow, and F1 racers compete in front of purely virtual viewership A vaccine is still a ways off and could enter production sometime next year What will the fate of the Olympics and Expo 2020 be in the meantime?

As we’ve all come to know by now, the novel Coronavirus is spread when an infected person’s respiratory droplets come in contact with a healthy person’s nose, eyes or mouth. As such, many governments and health organizations have been warning against gatherings of large groups of people. Therefore, many venues and businesses have gone empty. 

Besides the obvious decrease in load factors and blocked flight routes, reports are coming out of Europe revealing that airlines have been flying ‘ghost’ planes – flights carrying no passengers – in an attempt to keep their flight slots. As Business Insider (BI) explains, “European rules [force] operators to run their allocated flights or risk losing their slots.” Essentially, “airlines operating out of the continent must continue to run 80% of their allocated slots or risk losing them to a competitor. ” 

The result is immeasurable financial costs to airlines and environmental costs to the planet, as thousands of galons of fuel are burned for no logical reason. 

Last week, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to Airport Coordination Limited asking for the rules to be suspended during the outbreak, saying that “Such a scenario is not acceptable. It is not in the industry’s, the passengers’ or the environment’s interest and must be avoided.”

In Bahrain, the organizers of the Formula 1 Grand Prix (GP) scheduled for March 20-22 confirmed that the event will be held with only the participants in attendance – no spectators will be allowed. Revving motors will echo across empty stadium seats, as the only viewers that will be tuning in will be via TV or online streaming. Elsewhere, F1 events are being cancelled entirely. This also includes some upcoming FI GPs in Bahrain too. 

So what else could be cancelled? Could the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo fall victim to Covid-19 as well? Organizers don’t believe so, and insist it will proceed as planned. The sporting event is scheduled for July 24 – August 9. Could we see a similar situation as with the F1 GP in Bahrain where Olympic athletes will perform in front of an exclusively televised audience? It could be possible. 

Another big question mark on the horizon is Dubai’s Expo 2020, commonly referred to as The World’s Greatest Show. Expo 2020 is a project of epic proportions, and a cancellation or postponement could derail all the endless work and funds the Emirate has put into making it a reality. There is little chance Expo 2020 will be cancelled, though we could see alternative solutions as proposed above. The event is expected to see a windfall of between $23 billion and $60 billion in economic activity, as well as the creation of 100,000 new jobs in tourism and hospitality. As such, it seems Dubai will take every precaution rather than let that happen. Furthermore, the Coronavirus scare could subside by the time the event comes around in October.

Elsewhere, concerts have been cancelled, schools have been shut down until further notice, and companies are sending employees home. Investors are risk-averse, companies are losing business, and people are at risk of being laid off. As the world flirts with a recession, there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The value of Brent crude tanked to $31.02 today amid a forecasted price war, while investors continue to flock to gold as a safe haven. Even the untouchable and decentralized Bitcoin has been sent into a nosedive

Is anyone truly safe from the Covid-19 scare? With a vaccine far on the horizon, it seems we’re in this for the long haul. 

You’ll want to read: Has the world blown this Coronavirus outbreak out of proportion?