Tale of Two Joysticks

My airline ‘career’ was in the halcyon flying days of last century, which continued hubristically for another twenty years. Now the pandemic has almost brought the industry to a standstill, and prospects of a take-off this year are very slim. In December the International Air Transport Association, the airline industry peak body, had an official forecast of 50% rebound in international air traffic. Now they reckon it could be as low as 13%. They confused wishful thinking with ‘forecasting’, which is endemic in that industry.

American Airlines recently warned 13,000 employees they could be laid off, many for the second time in six months. Their CEO and the President said: “At the end of 2020 we fully believed that we would be looking at a summer schedule where we’d fly all of our airplanes and need the full strength of our team. Regrettably, that is no longer the case.” 

How could they have believed, fully or otherwise, unless it was prayer-based, that aviation in the USA in uncontrolled pandemic crisis would miraculously recover this year? Both those executives should be sacked for gross incompetence. Clearly, aspiring international air travellers ain’t going anywhere much, anytime soon this year. That’s the realistic forecast.

Readers always enjoy personal disclosure in their KC, to accompany well-reasoned argument, elegant logic and stylistic flourishes of language. Well, it turns out that my son has also fallen on his employment feet, or backside in this case. He has worked his way up to a senior position in the video-game industry, from humble beginnings as a computer-starved adolescent, who had to sneak out of home to play on other kids’ game consoles. We’re talking the ‘90s.

Unsurprisingly, video game sales have boomed this past twelve months, and his company is no exception. Now he’s a man of the times. Revenues from their latest game edition are up 50% and heading towards US$2.3 billion over the two year product life cycle. And on the cost side they have no need for really expensive infrastructure, equipment made by Airbus or Boeing, and highly-trained staff – just teams of smart nerds, imagination and serious software. 

Maybe this generational change of occupations could be termed passing the joystick, or some such, but it’s definitely a sign of intersecting fates in those two industries. I know which one I’d be investing in right now, although I’m keeping my Qantas shares in case it’s the last airline left standing.

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