Paris Airshow cancelled in 2021 amid Covid-19 uncertainty

The next edition of the biennial event will be held in June 2023

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 22, 2019 visitors walk on the tarmac during the International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport, near Paris. The 2021 edition of Paris Air Show is cancelled, organisers announced on December 7, 2020. / AFP / ERIC PIERMONT
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The next edition of the biennial Paris Airshow, one of the largest aviation events in the world, has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Exhibitors will receive a full refund of any monies already paid for the show, which was due to take place in June next year. The next edition will be held in June 2023, the French Aerospace Industries Association said in a statement on December 7.

“We are obviously disappointed not to be able to hold the 2021 edition of the Paris Air Show," Patrick Daher, chairman of the International Paris Air Show, said. "After many months of all trade show activities being suspended throughout the world, the entire international aerospace and defence community was very much looking forward to being able to meet."

The Paris Airshow, which takes place at Le Bourget airport outside the French capital, is when airlines typically make announcements of major aircraft orders and planemakers showcase their latest models. The decision to scrap the airshow comes after the Covid-19 pandemic hammered the aviation industry, forcing airlines to idle their jets while major planemakers Boeing and Airbus slashed jobs and reduced production.

"We have already started work to ensure that the 2023 edition celebrates the resurgence of the aerospace industry on an international scale," Mr Daher said.

Scrapping the 2021 event is also an indication of the sluggish pace of recovery of the aviation industry as it grapples with the worst crisis in its history.

The cancellation reflects the impracticality of hosting a large event against the backdrop of social distancing rules combined with airlines' limited appetite for aircraft orders as they struggle to survive, aviation analysts say.

"It's a year to take a breather," John Strickland, an independent aviation consultant, said. "Airlines are not in the frame of mind for ordering aircraft – indeed. many of them are not going to survive – and we're seeing orders cancelled or deferred."

Carriers are expected to lose a combined $157 billion in 2020 and 2021, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata). That’s nearly 60 per cent more than the industry body projected in June and five times the loss suffered during the 2008 financial crisis.

"It's not a time for going into a big sales pitch," Mr Strickland said of the 2021 Paris Airshow. In its last edition, the event recorded more than $140 billion worth of orders, according to the French Aerospace Industries Association. Airbus  presented its new A321XLR, the longest-range version of its single-aisle workhorse, during the show and garnered orders from airlines including Lebanon's Middle East Airlines.

In 2019, the airshow attracted 316,000 visitors, according to the association.

"Even with a vaccine coming along we will not be in a position to have normal freedom of movement in society in the next year, so the logistics and practicality of holding an event like this are – to say the least – challenging, with large numbers of people mingling around parked aircraft, receptions for drinks and lunches and flying displays," Mr Strickland said. "It's just not a practical proposition."

The Paris Airshow typically alternates with the UK's Farnborough airshow, which was cancelled in 2020 and will take place in 2022.