Home Spotting News 4 Ways Coronavirus Will Change Plane Spotting

4 Ways Coronavirus Will Change Plane Spotting


Like it or not, our world has changed as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Chance are you’re in lockdown, living and working from home.

What would usually be a great time to plan or enjoy some plane spotting, or maybe using Flightradar24 to watch some overflights, has instead become a quiet time with barely any planes to see!

No one knows yet how long this will last, but I think we can be sure of a few things changing when the lockdowns and travel bans are finally lifted.


1 Official Spotting Locations May Remain Closed

It will likely take a while before public spaces are reopened, and that may include official spotting locations at airports, like viewing terraces. Social distancing restrictions may remain in place, and airports may choose to keep these facilities closed as cost saving measures.

It may also take time for places like aviation museums to reopen, and some may struggle to survive.


2 Airlines Will Disappear and Downsize

Photo (c) Bob Franklin

With an anticipated recession and downturn in how much people travel, not to mention the enforced grounding of airline fleets worldwide, we will likely see a large number of airlines closing down.

We have already lost Flybe, and more will surely follow.

Those that survive will likely downsize their fleets to better reflect the demand they have and reduced schedules.

This past week both KLM and Qantas have retired their Boeing 747 fleets, and we’re likely to see more consolidation like this as airlines focus on fewer types and getting rid of more costlier aircraft.


3 Airports Will be Quieter

As a result of the inevitable loss and change of many airlines, the airports we visit will become quieter. There will be fewer movements and fewer new routes starting up.

Many airports will go into a period of consolidation, looking for alternative revenue streams and battling for the routes that do remain.

In the short term, we may see more cargo flights at airports where previously these only made up a small amount of operations.


4 More Stored Airliners

With airlines going out of business or reducing their operations drastically as a result of the downturn in travel, there will be many more airliners parked up in storage.

Naturally the majority of these will end up in desert storage locations around California and Arizona, however I think many will also be parked up at other hub and scrapping airports around the world. Maybe this will become a lucrative side-business for airlines.

What do you think the post-coronavirus world for plane spotters be like?



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Nick Millward April 3, 2020 - 5:08 pm

I guess you’ve got it just about right for the future of our hobby. At least there is one good thing to come out of this Coronavirus and that is the world will have a lot cleaner air with the loss of traffic both in the air and on the ground including all the roads around the world. Can’t think of any other good news though.

Matt Falcus April 3, 2020 - 8:04 pm

Good point Nick! At least it goes part way to tackle climate change!

Julian April 3, 2020 - 6:01 pm

True Matt, this is a world shaker! I think spotting will be more the thrill of the chase as fewer types and airlines utilise more economic routings. The long thin examples may still survive but using higher capacity planes over shorter routes will make that financially better usage. Of course since the world “lockdown” many airliners have used entire planes for freight, belly and otherwise, so we could see some surplus aircraft converted to freight. Yes even A350 and Dreamliners as freight A/C isn’t so far away, albeit not originally conceived as profitable!
The other issue may reveal itself is the need to travel further afield to capture those elusive types and airlines which could also become more challenging as your 4 point header alluded to.
Of course right now we are seeing the more unexpected types passing through LHR etc. such as LAN 789 etc but who knows if this becomes the norm.

Mike Cottrell April 3, 2020 - 8:58 pm

I fear most of your predictions are accurate; Jason and Ian on the FR24 podcast even implied that many airlines’ A380 fleets would never make another revenue flight.
I really hope you’re wrong about aviation museums; I for one will still support them . Most of the UK ones are run by volunteers and, if they don’t re-open and have decent numbers of visitors after this crisis, then yes, they will close for good and that will be a great loss to future generations.
On the (slight) plus side, might it lead to an uptake of flightsim?

Matt Falcus April 4, 2020 - 12:45 pm

Thanks Mike. Yes I’m determined to help aviation museums all I can (I volunteer at one and am worried about its future). Yes, there’s a new version of Microsoft Flight Sim due in the near future, so it may have a big uptake!

MERVYN CROWE April 5, 2020 - 4:15 am

Hi Matt, this is just like a very bad dream…that wont go away, almost beyond comprehension. Weall have to stay positive and hope and pray our clever medical scientist can find a way to stop and cure this scourge.
Perth airport in Australia here is still operating all the mining, oil and gas flights so still lots of F100, F70, A320,737 and the myriad of turbo props still roaring over my house. We have had three medical relief flights from Shanghai with A330 freighters, so the country that started all this madness, is now selling us medical supplies!!!
So desperately sad to see all the tails lined up, but I have great faith that we will win this and return to a different form of normality eventually. Please God, lets hope so.


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