The Covid pandemic around the world continues to affect the production and supply of paragliding equipment, as various countries apply measures aimed at controlling the virus. Meanwhile, the surge in demand for free flying gear that followed the initial lockdowns shows no sign of stopping, putting even more pressure on supplies.
It's not just a problem for paragliding, of course — for comparison, there's currently a delay of about nine months in getting a new Volkswagen van! The equipment manufacturers are doing all they can to deal with the problems, and we at Flybubble are also trying our hardest to keep our customers satisfied.
Several companies have factories in Vietnam. Advance was seriously affected in summer 2021 by the lockdown there, but despite the delays that this caused, it's pushed ahead with developing new products. At the Coupe Icare in St Hilaire, Advance presented the Omega XA 4 lightweight wing and the Weightless cross-country harness.
At the end of October, the lockdown in Vietnam was largely lifted, and about two thirds of Advance's staff there are working on site again. They're focusing on filling open orders as quickly as possible, but plan to manufacture newly developed products from spring 2022 onwards. You can join Advance's "As Soon As Possible" mailing list for the latest news.
The people at Advance say they're tremendously motivated by social media showing so many people using their equipment with smiles on their faces, and are doing all they can to improve the delivery situation.
Meanwhile, Niviuk — which also manufactures in Vietnam — is back in full production there, but has a big backlog of orders to process. It's also facing delays in shipping and customs around the world. Niviuk thanks its customers for their patience, and promises to fulfil orders as soon as possible.
Ozone also has a production facility in Vietnam, which is now back to about 80% of full capacity. Ozone says production and delivery times have started to decrease, and they hope this will continue.
Both Ozone and Advance have seen significant rises in the prices of their materials and components, and put their retail prices up by 3-4%.
The harness manufacturer Kortel Design was also hit by the lockdown in Vietnam. And it says that in 2020 many textile manufacturers reduced production to avoid running up big stocks — just as the demand for paragliding products rocketed, and Kortel's own stocks ran low. Kortel says that, in a complex situation, it's doing all it can to find solutions and to keep its customers informed.
Several manufacturers have their factories in Sri Lanka. Among them are BGD, Triple Seven and Phi, which says the worst appears to be over there; almost all the workforce has been vaccinated, and production is close to 100%. Phi says that since paragliding means freedom, it's always believed that there'd be a boom after the lockdowns. It therefore placed extra orders and built up stock to mitigate any production downtimes. As a result, it's able to deliver almost all products at short notice, except for some in very high demand, such as small Violas and some sizes of Sonata.
The manufacturers' difficulties also make things harder for suppliers like us at Flybubble, of course. We're doing all we can to bring you the best service possible, but for some products we can't avoid longer delivery times and reduced availability.
What should you do to get the gear that you want?
If your heart is set on a particular make, model, size or colour that's not currently in stock, you can place an order with us now, and we'll do all we can to get it to you as soon as possible. Since we specialise in free flight equipment, we can obtain it at least as quickly as anyone else, and usually quicker. But we may not be able to say exactly when, so you may have to be patient. There's no need to keep checking with us — we'll let you know when there's news.
But if getting your new wing or harness quickly is more important to you, it may be worth being flexible, and choosing from what we have in stock; our website shows our current stock, and we have a lot more than most dealers. Or at least choose from what manufacturers currently hold — you can email us to check.
We hope we've been able to give you a useful look behind the scenes, and helped to clarify the extremely challenging situation which free flight manufacturers have been facing since spring 2020. Thank you for your understanding.
We assure you that we and the manufacturers are already doing all we can to deliver your order to you as fast as possible in the circumstances. It's very much in our interests to do so, since ultimately we want exactly the same as you do — for you to be happy! This way we hope that you'll give us good reviews, recommend us to others and choose to buy from us again in future.