Singapore Airlines’ senior management had up to four COVID “crisis meetings” a day at the start of the pandemic, as international borders shut like “dominos”.
Talking to the Australian Aviation Podcast, the business’ regional manager for public affairs, Karl Schubert, said, “If you’d have told us in March 2020 that this would have extended for two years, I think we all would have thought, ‘That can’t be possible’.”
You can listen to the episode above or on your favourite podcast platforms here.
Schubert gave host Adam Thorn a remarkable insight into the moments Singapore Airlines tried to make sense of the early weeks of COVID as governments added new restrictions worldwide.
“I was on a work trip in New Zealand at the start of March and there were many discussions then about the impact it was having on Europe, particularly in Italy.
“And when I came back, we went into a number of crisis meetings, both here in Australia, as well as globally, as we were starting to really look at what was potentially about to happen.
“I said in that meeting that it’s going to take one border to close, and we’re going to see a domino effect. And we could very well end either this week or next with not too many planes in the sky, not too many borders open. And that’s eventually what happened.
“It was relatively sudden for a lot of people who saw it as nothing more than a bad flu. But for those of us who maintained a watchful brief on this since December, it didn’t come as a shock.
“The biggest unknown for us was how long? And that was something that that no one could really answer.”
Schubert explained that the business couldn’t plan for a Black Swan event as big as COVID.
“It is almost impossible. You can have your plans to be prepared for any crisis. But a crisis that effectively shuts down the industry that you have no control over is something very, very difficult to plan for.
“The meetings we were having were incredibly regular. You’d have three or four a day, and as you came out of a meeting, in two hours, you’d be back in another crisis meeting because the situation had evolved so rapidly that it changed once again.
“The simple fact was that things moved so incredibly quickly, particularly in the first two to three weeks when the world shut down. Then once the world had finally closed and almost everything was grounded, you sat there and went, ‘What next?’”