A unique all-day broadcast event, hosted by Inmarsat and APEX, last week saw more than 50 leading voices exchange views on the present and future of aviation, as over 3,000 viewers in almost 100 countries watched.
Designed to encourage collaboration during these challenging times, FlightPlan: Charting a Course into the Future, saw experts express confidence in an eventual bounce-back and highlight the importance of technology in spurring passenger return.
Nick Careen, senior vp of airport passenger cargo and security at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), observed that although the COVID-19 pandemic has “no parallel to draw upon in recent memory… the airline industry has illustrated time and time again that if there’s any industry in the world that knows how to deal with a crisis, it’s this one”. Careen predicted that changes to come may include staggered boarding processes, alongside faster adoption of biometrics and self-service technologies in the airport.
In an interactive poll during the event, FlightPlan viewers were invited to share their own predictions on the COVID-19 recovery. Results showed: 43% predicted recovery will take 18 months to three years; 44% said the industry was poorly prepared for COVID-19; and 36% stated governments have helped the industry but could have done more.
New passenger processes
Some 87% expect to see more deep cleaning and slower turnarounds while 86% believe that personal protective equipment (PPE) will become standard for cabin crews in the coming months. 80% also expect thermal scanners to become part of the passenger journey although only 9% see blood tests for airline passengers becoming the norm.
Discussing the ambitious sustainability targets the industry has previously set itself, such as net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the experts agreed that collaboration was fundamental. Anko Van Der Werff, ceo of Avianca, argued that “the whole ecosystem needs to work together on this.” Paul Stein, chief technical officer at Rolls Royce, added that the impact of single-nation initiatives has been limited and a “coalition of the willing” with industry bodies, airlines, manufacturers and fuel providers is needed.
Industry speakers were largely confident COVID-19 would not interrupt progress on sustainable aviation and felt it may even push the topic higher up the agenda. Stein said: “The post-COVID-19 world is going to be one that recognises the fragility of the planet…sustainability isn’t just going to come back to the point it was before COVID – it’s going to be an even stronger issue.” In the FlightPlan poll 40% of respondents agreed COVID-19 will accelerate the drive to reduce emissions.
Rupert Pearce, ceo of Inmarsat, spoke about the power of connectivity to drive global development and industry recovery. “I believe that digitalisation lies at the heart of our ability to first survive this crisis, and then to drive our ability to rebound from it and start to thrive in whatever new reality lies in front of us.”
The next generation of passengers were at the centre of a discussion around the need for airlines to continue preparing for the future with Generation Z’s now seeing travel as a right and inflight connectivity as a driving force in their decision-making.
Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “As we look towards recovery and ensuring long-term resilience, there will be no one-size-fits all approach. However, it will remain important that airlines can differentiate for customers. It’s clear that the safety of consumers will continue to be at the forefront in this new world, and that digitisation and innovation will be crucial to driving much-needed efficiencies, reducing environmental impact and improving passenger experience.”