The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. Aircraft – 494 mentions

Boeing’s aircraft production hitting the lowest in 50 years, Wizz Air adding another aircraft to its fleet and FPG Amentum’s divestment of Luxembourg-based aircraft fund were some widely discussed topics in Q1. According to an article shared by Dominic Gates, an aerospace journalist at The Seattle Times, American aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s production of aircraft hit a 50-year low in 2020.

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Boeing was badly hit by US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to ground its 737 MAX aircraft for a period of 20 months until November 2020, following two fatal crashes. The grounding, starting in 2019, led to the loss of more than 1,000 orders for the MAX aircraft. The Covid-19 pandemic, which severely impacted air travel last year, further forced Boeing to slash production of all its other aircraft, the article highlighted.

Further, David Cassey, senior network planning editor at Routesonline, a company focussing on aviation route development, shared an article on Wizz Air, a Hungary-based low-cost airline, adding a fourth aircraft to its fleet at Tirana International Airport in Albania. The aircraft will be stationed at the company’s Tirana base and facilitate the launch of six new routes, including two routes to Sweden and four to Italy. Wizz Air opened its base at Tirana International Airport in July last year, introducing 15 routes to destinations in eight countries. The latest fleet extension is expected to increase its passenger capacity from Tirana by half a million seats per year, the article noted.

Other discussions surrounding aircraft included Dublin-based aircraft lessor FPG Amentum completing divestment of Global Aircraft Fund I, a Luxembourg-based fund, according to an article shared by AVIATOR, a commercial airline news publisher. FPG Amentum has been the sole lease and asset manager for the fund since its launch in 2006. FPG acquired and debt-financed 26 aircraft on behalf of the fund to various airlines globally. The company completed the divestment of the fund by selling the last aircraft, an A320-200 (MSN 3624), to an Irish lessor, the article highlighted.

2. Pilots – 418 mentions

More than half of pilots globally being unemployed, FedEx and Sikorsky commencing single-pilot tests for cargo planes and some US airlines rehiring pilots were some popularly discussed topics last quarter. Ryan Ewing, founder of Airline Geeks, an aviation industry news provider, shared an article about more than 50% of global airline pilots being unemployed due to decline in air travel demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a survey conducted among 2,600 pilots globally, 30% of the pilots are without jobs, while 17% were furloughed and 10% are in non-flying positions.

Among the unemployed pilots, 84% attribute their joblessness to the pandemic, while 82% of them are ready for a new job even with a pay cut. European pilots were most concerned by the pandemic, due to disorganised rules and the prospect of being quarantined during a rotation, the article highlighted.

Job Ostrower, chief editor of The Air Current, a news provider on aviation industry, further, shared an article about American aircraft maker Sikorsky and cargo airline FedEx Express partnering to conduct single-pilot tests for cargo airlines. The companies are testing single-pilot operations on the ATR 42-300 aircraft, which was converted into a freighter. The tests are being performed at the Waterbury-Oxford Airport in Connecticut, as part of Sikorsky’s plan to develop autonomous systems for fixed-wing aircraft. This is the first time the technology is being integrated into an aircraft of this magnitude, the article noted.

Another discussion related to pilots was shared by Jamie Freed, aviation and defence correspondent at Reuters, about airlines in America like PSA and Frontier rehiring pilots on hopes that domestic air travel will rebound by summer. The air travel sector was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, but airlines are hoping that the sector would recover at least partially with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccine across the US. Airlines were on a pilot hiring spree for several years before the pandemic struck, following which hiring and training of pilots was stopped abruptly, the article highlighted.

3. Airport – 285 mentions

Security being reinforced at Washington-area airports amid protests, flights leaving London airport to be charged service fees and Delta rolling out new feature at Detroit airport were some broadly discussed topics in Q1 2021. According to an article shared by Johnny Jet, an airline industry expert, US airlines and law enforcement agencies tightened security at airports in Washington area, following demonstrations by supporters of Donald Trump. The security at the airports were asked to ban Trump supporters, who marched into US Capitol, from flying. Air passengers were also alerted about increased presence of law enforcement personnel, as they travel through airports, the article highlighted.

Further, The Points Guy, a travel expert, shared an article on all flights from Heathrow Airport in London being charged a new (£8.90) $12 fee, irrespective of airlines or service class. The fee is planned to be utilised for specific services being provided at the airport, as opposed to supporting its recovery from pandemic induced losses. The new fee will reflect on all flights departing from the airport and will be included in the taxes, fees and surcharges segment of the flight fare breakup, the article noted. The move was criticised by the International Airlines Group, which stated that Heathrow should seek funds from its wealthy shareholders rather than charging consumers.

Airport was also discussed in an article shared by Kelly Yamanouchi, an airline reporter at AJC, an Atlanta-based newspaper, about Delta Airlines launching facial recognition feature for its domestic passengers at Detroit airport. The feature is an extension of the biometric technology launched in 2018 for international passengers using facial recognition at Hartsfield-Jackson’s Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal. Delta’s domestic passengers travelling from Detroit and meeting the airline’s requirements, can opt for the voluntary facial recognition programme through the Delta app instead of verifying their physical ID and boarding pass.

4. Covid-19 – 221 mentions

American Airlines’ plans to send furlough notices, Canada’s pandemic restrictions forcing WestJet to cut services and US airlines being against Covid-19 testing for domestic travellers were some trending topics during the previous quarter. Allied Pilots, a union representing American Airlines pilots, shared an article about American Airlines planning to issue 13,000 new furlough notices to its employees in April due to Covid-19 induced decline in travel demand and expiry of federal government relief.

The airline received approximately $6bn from the first Covid-19 economic relief bill cleared by the Congress in March 2020 but still incurred losses of $8.9bn last year, due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. The airline furloughed roughly 19,000 employees last October, before recalling them in late December, the article highlighted.

David Cassey, further, shared an article about WestJet, a Calgary-based airline, deciding to cut services to four domestic destinations for three months, due to pandemic-related restrictions. The airline will temporarily suspend flight services to four Canadian destinations from March to June due to stringent Covid-19 rules imposed by Canada for air travellers. Canada mandates a negative Covid-19 test at the traveller’s expense and compulsory quarantine for international travellers. The government has also not provided any financial aid for the airline sector forcing airlines to operate under an uncertain environment, the article noted.

Covid-19 also trended in discussions shared by Ethan Klapper, journalist at Yahoo News, about major US airlines urging the federal government to reject Covid-19 tests for domestic travellers. The airline companies aver that mandating PCR tests for passengers travelling by domestic flights would further destabilise the airline industry, which is already reeling under pandemic-induced travel slump. Introducing domestic testing could further damage the industry and put aviation jobs at risk, the article detailed.

5. Cargo – 144 mentions

United Airlines launching exclusive cargo flights to Atlanta, Lufthansa Cargo to revamp its logistics centre and Boeing cargo plane involved in an explosion were some widely discussed topics in the first quarter of the year. According to an article shared by Kelly Yamanouchi, US-based airline company United Airlines rolled out cargo-only flights to Atlanta, owing to rising demand for transporting different commodities.

The cargo-only flights on Boeing 787-10s began in January joining 9,500 of other cargo-only flights of the airline, which have been operating since March 2020. Many carriers have been using passenger aircraft as cargo-only flights since the onset of coronavirus pandemic, the article highlighted.

Further, AVIATOR, shared an article about German air freight operator, Lufthansa Cargo, planning to modernise the logistics centre at its home hub in Frankfurt. The company’s supervisory board sanctioned investments in a comprehensive infrastructure programme for the centre.

The complete overhaul of the Lufthansa Cargo Center commenced in January 2021 and will be completed in 2028. The cargo centre located in Frankfurt manages around 80% of Lufthansa Cargo’s international freight volume. The expansion project will enable the company to improve airfreight efficiency and meet the changing requirements of its customers, the article noted.

Another discussion surrounding cargo was shared by Joan Lowy, former transportation reporter at The Associated Press, about the engine parts of a Boeing 747-400 cargo aircraft operated by Longtail Aviation coming apart after a mid-air explosion and fire. The aircraft was headed to New York and was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines. The explosion caused small metal parts of the engine to scatter over Meerssen, a town in southern Netherlands, damaging cars and houses. The aircraft landed safely at the Liege airport in Belgium despite the explosion, the article highlighted.