It is difficult to overstate the key role Boeing plays in the economy and in the national defense, so I find it hard to begrudge the company its share of the Great COVID Corporate Welfare package. I will, at some point, sharpen my horns deliver some tough love to Boeing leadership for the criminal mismanagement that has plagued the company, but for now, a nod and a high-five.
And a thought.
Coming out of this pandemic, a wide swath of the population will now be accustomed to using virtual presence. People who might never have tried services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom before are now using them on a daily basis. Once you turn a tool into a habit, the habit brings an accompanying change of behavior. It is hard not to foresee companies cutting back on business travel, using the rising quality and falling cost of virtual presence as partial justification.
And let’s be honest – how many of us who engage in regular business travel will mourn? The prospect of spending long hours sealed in a pressurized aluminum tube filled with uncomfortable seats and untold germs, manned by indifferent crews and flown through increasingly turbulent skies (thank you, climate change), all dappled with the overhanging fears of terrorism cannot but fill one with unalloyed dread.
I could be wrong: air travel may not be the industrial equivalent of a 737-MAX on autopilot (sorry, I know, low blow.) But Boeing’s biggest customers must be staying awake nights wondering if they are going to run out of sky, or if they need to start changing the way they fly.