People & Organizational Development During Unprecedent Times

According to IATA and ICAO, the aviation industry has accumulated an overall aggregated loss of almost 370 billion US dollars.

Priorities have changed. Over the past 12 months, we have seen the decline of commercial aviation and witnessed the growth of new ventures, new air-vehicles, new travel standards. 

We want to hear from industry leaders about how they pilot the re-birth of an industry that continuously changes and unites us all around the love for flying.

For this edition of “Leaders Roundtable”, in cooperation with Aeropodium, and under the leadership of Alhyant, a Kilpatrick Group Company, 5 questions are addressed to industry leaders from east to west.

Amit Mittal

AVP (Aviation and Airlines), Bank of Baroda


Amit has over 15 years of experience in the Aviation industry in senior and leadership positions. He knows the Indian and Asian aviation market remarkably well with network and relationships across Airlines, Airports, Aircraft OEM’s. His experience covers Aircraft Leasing, Aviation Banking, Airports Management, Aircraft acquisition advisory, and Asset Management, Organizing international Aviation conferences, Exposure to Simulator TRTO, MRO, and relationships with the international aviation fraternity.

William Mermelstein

Chairman, AMS China Limited

People’s Republic of China

William has over 45+ years’ aviation experience, including Senior Management, Commercial Flight Operations, Maintenance, Flight Test, Design, Development and Manufacturing. His flight training began in 1969 at the young age of just ten years old, and he has over 50 years of flying and nearly 11,000 hours in a wide variety of aircraft. Certificated Airframe & Power-plant Mechanic with Inspection Authorization in the US and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He previously held OEM authorizations of ODAR and DMIR designations. William has over 20 years in manual development for Part 91, 121, 135, 141/142, 145 & 147 operations, including General Operations Manual (GOM), General Maintenance Manual (GMM), Safety Management Systems (SMS), Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC), Hazardous Materials, Dangerous Goods (DG), an Approved Aircraft Inspection Program (AAIP) and course curriculum development, and has authored over 20 such manual systems.

William has served in senior management positions in Part 91, 121, 135, 141/142, and 145 operations over his career and MRO & FBO and commercial fueling operations. All were direct involvement or management of Operations, Development, Implementation, and Oversight. He is a graduate of the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City in Part 145 Certification & Surveillance.

Colin Brickman 

Managing Partner, CAMO4jets AG


Colin was a BaE Warton apprentice, learning his trade as an aircraft engineer on Tornado, Jaguar, and Lightning, fast jets from 1986 onwards.

He has since worked as an EASA licensed engineer & supervisor for multiple European airlines, 3rd party maintainers, cargo companies, military establishments, VIP owners, operators, and lessors of a vast aircraft range. 

Colin has also repossessed, recovered & repaired damaged aircraft from several locations for an array of different clients. On founding CAMO4jets AG in Basel, Switzerland, in 2010, the sole intent was to provide independent, impartial advice and services for commercial and private aircraft owners.

Colin’s specialist knowledge extends from CAMO, and Airline & MRO set up, several of which are successfully in place and operational. With intimate knowledge of Aviation authorities and regulation, with reliable, personal relationships forged with many EASA NAAs, Bermuda, Cayman, the 2-REG, and frequent interaction with the FAA and many other international jurisdictions all contributing to CAMO4jets experience base.

His experience also includes quality control and assurance systems, airworthiness responsibilities for importing, exporting & operating aircraft, phase in and out projects, repossession, fleet changes, and the coordination of extensive repair and end of lease projects, now a specialty of CAMO4jets.

In the current aviation market, CAMO4jets expansion is accelerating in several global locations. Europe, Asia, Middle East, and the Americas. With some of the significant commercial lessors and financiers already as primary clients. In addition to flourishing agreements with several major airlines & MROs to offer CAMO services to their global client base, Colin & CAMO4jets are prepared for the future.

Francisco Becerra

CEO, Corner Finance

United States of America

Francisco has over 25 years leading and participating in strategic international business development initiatives throughout the USA, Latin America, and Europe. 

Since 2011 CEO of Corner Finance Llc., a Florida corporation focused on helping companies obtain funding for business opportunities and commercial projects. 

He brings together a mix of international business development, international project management, and international project financing. With leadership in complex financial and technical international business projects while interacting with C-suite, legal, accounting, business managers, engineers. A promoter of interaction between internal specialists, external service providers, business partners, clients, and end-users. An effective multilingual communicator, problem solver with an end-to-end view of project management. 

He is focused on obtaining market insights through research, data mining, analysis for improved decision making, sales efficiency, reporting, and information flow. 

He currently acts as moderator for a multi-part webinar series discussing Urban Air Mobility, Advanced Air Mobility, eVTOL aircraft, and their ecosystem. 

Question 1: How do you see the recovery of the aviation industry in 2021?

Mittal: Recovery of aviation in 2021 may be viewed from the following important perspectives:

Airlines: There will be faster recovery in the domestic sector in various countries, especially in high-traffic countries/regions such as the US, India, China, and Western Europe for LCC carriers. International traffic is limited to bubbles and bilateral arrangements between countries.

Airports: Faster growth at domestic and regional airports, airport warehousing, cargo centers and air logistics will pick up (especially due to vaccine and e-commerce air shipments), international hubs will have to re-model due to change in traffic mix.

Freighters: Small and mid-size freighter Aircraft will see growth.

Aircraft: Deliveries are getting back steadily in Asia for narrow-body aircraft.

Lessors: They will see mergers and consolidations; and re-scheduling of aircraft deliveries. The demand for wide body aircraft is expected to grow due to preference for non-stop transcontinental travel in international sectors

Mermelstein: I expect a minimal substantial recovery in 2021 for international travel. Domestic markets should see a 25-50% recovery compared to 2019 levels for most Western and European countries.

Brickman: Recovery, in 2021, I see as gradual. The strongest will survive, possibly with consolidation and takeovers. I think this will continue into 2022 and maybe 2023, with 2024 seeing back to 2019 levels.

Becerra: Different regions will have different recovery experiences. In general, it will be very much like 2020 with a slight improvement. If in 2020, airline capacity passenger total averaged 40%, in 2021, it will be 50%, with an up4ck in the second half of the year as vaccines are delivered. But this volume will be way lower than pre-Covid19. 

The return to normalcy will take longer than is expected or desired. It always does.

Question 2: What factors are going to affect the return to normalcy?

Mittal:  Opening up of international traffic back to pre-Covid19 levels will take another one year. High fuel prices will affect airline sustainability due to limited routes and fewer load factors. As successful Covid19 vaccination increases in major markets like the US, India, China, SE Asia, Middle East, and Europe, travel confidence will increase, contributing to normalcy.

Mermelstein: Panic over Covid19 will need to see relaxing by pax, development of a single set of international travel standards accepted by all countries/CAA’s, and improve honest & transparent covid data/numbers.

Brickman: Quantify Normalcy! It does not exist anymore! If you were looking for a return to transaction and cash flows of 2019, then as above, a few years more to go. Factors being customer confidence to travel, governments not penalizing travelers (quarantine and such); this possible comes from vaccination. But I’m no doctor.

Becerra: Vaccines will be the main factor in returning to normalcy. The business traveler will likely take a bit longer to get back in the air since: a) we figured out how to manage some commercial interactions via video calls; b) some business destinations will take longer to open, and c) companies need to feel-out the cost/benefit from employees possibly having to quarantine. 

Question 3: How will the “New Normal” look like?

Mittal:  Passenger confidence to travel is limited to essential flights. So, in the new normal, people will avoid discretionary travel up to the “new normal” returns to “old pre-Covid19 normal”, probably in the next two years. Airports will have to deploy terminal management and calibrated people flow at check-in, security hold, F&B, Duty-Free and Immigration counters, web check-in will be mandatory and well accepted. For international flights, people will prefer nonstop transcontinental flights. 

People would like to fly with trusted carriers with convenient time schedules and will avoid cancellations and long layovers for connecting flights. 

People will prefer packed food and home food and may like to travel light for domestic flights to avoid baggage to reduce touchpoints. Digital payments, contactless check-in, self-check-in, technology for safety and security at airports will become more data-centric and AI-enabled. Airline operating costs will go up due to sanitization; business travelers may prefer modern aircraft with a better cabin environment. Charter flights will be more in demand.

Mermelstein: Re-expanding of personal space on aircraft; the end of “sardine-packed” cabins. Redesign of open spaces in terminals; the past 10+ years have seen more and more over-crowding and uncivilized lines, spaces, and pax treatment in the air travel system.

Brickman: More point-to-point activities opposed to hubs – this was already starting to happen – and more private activity.

Becerra: Vaccination passports and masks are going to be the new normal.

Question 4: How will people’s traveling habits be affected?

Mittal:  As price of air ticket is higher than pre-Covid19 levels, people will like to travel with  established and well-connected airlines to avoid any last-minute changes and cancellations. 

People will check the levels of Covid19 restrictions at the destinations before flight bookings. 

Reduced shopping travel, medical travel, tourism, conferences, and events will be there.

Mermelstein: I anticipate a 50% reduction in business travel going forward. Companies have learned that they can handle a good deal of business via online teleconferences. 

Low-level and some mid-level business travelers may well see most of their previous travel wholly curtailed. 

The size of the business-class cabins may be bigger and more widely utilized. However, the quantity of business pax travel will be lower. Corporate and charter travel may well increase so that over-crowded airline travel can be avoided, and same-day round-trip travel is possible. A better accounting of employee/managements time will be used to justify travel time of commercial air travel vs. charter or private air travel options.

Brickman: As per point 2. Business (at a high level) needs it, but as per point 3.

Becerra: As people receive vaccines, the first impulse will be to fly on holiday to a destination to shake off the shackles of confinement. The whole family will have to travel to see a group the current travel experience so that later mom or dad can take business trips on their own. Early family exploration will give some confidence towards later business travel.

Question 5: Leadership is to be redefined. What are the skills you are looking for in the key people?

Mittal:  Agility to handle fast-changing rules, regulations, and stakeholder requirements, due to the dynamic nature of vaccination, Covid19 protocols, etc. Ability to handle business fluctuations with patience and perseverance. Ability to grasp and adapt to new technology to take care of complex business competition and to maintain growth in the future. Financial prudence for better cost control, and yet be able to meet operational and business expansion needs.   

Mermelstein: Ability to communicate effectively, conduct themselves with respect and honesty. Ability to manage their time and focus on the customers/clients’ needs and respond promptly.

Brickman: Really? Why does it need to be redefined? I see good leadership taking companies through all situations, not just a pandemic.

Becerra: Agility, which is being flexible and quick in a changing environment. High information processing abilities. Ability to quickly learn about anything and find cross-subject connections.

At Alhyant, a Kilpatrick Group Company, we want to thank all leaders for their precious time and for the feedbacks, and our partner Aeropodium for co-organizing this roundtable with us. 

Disclaimer: The view expressed in all the questions here is personal.

by Sotiris Karagiozidis, International Client Director @ Kilpatrick Group, in partnership with Aeropodium.

Kilpatrick Companies