There were plenty of bold predictions and optimism from aviation leaders at an industry-first virtual broadcast event hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and APEX at Flightplan, Singapore.
The global aviation industry came together for an all-day broadcast event in April to encourage collaboration during the most challenging and unpredictable time in its history.
FlightPlan: Charting a Course into the Future, hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), saw more than 50 leading voices exchange views on the present and future of aviation. Over 3,000 viewers tuned in from almost 100 countries worldwide for a series of live debates, interviews and news analysis.
Confidence in industry recovery
Internationl Air Transport Association Senior Vice President Airport Passenger Cargo and Security Nick Careen says while the COVID-19 pandemic has no precedent, he is confident recovery is on the horizon.
“[There is] 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,” says Careen.
Careen claims that changes to airline passenger journeys as a result of COVID-19 may include staggered boarding processes, alongside faster adoption of biometrics and self-service technologies in the airport.
Christoph Mueller, whom previously served as CEO of Malaysia Airlines and Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Emirates Group, also expressed words of reassurance.
“I have a lot of confidence that at least a lot of airlines will come out of this crisis with a new and regained strength,” says Mueller.
In an interactive poll, FlightPlan viewers were invited to share their own predictions on the COVID-19 recovery phase throughout the day.
Key takeaways from the poll
- Four in ten (43%) predicted that recovery will take from 18 months to three years
- Four in ten (44%) said the industry was poorly prepared for COVID-19
- Nearly two fifths (36%) stated that governments have helped the industry to navigate the pandemic, but could have done more
- 9 in 10 (87%) expect to see more deep cleaning and slower turnarounds
- 86% believe that personal protective equipment (PPE) will become standard for cabin crews in the coming months
- 8 in 10 (80%) expect thermal scanners to become part of the passenger journey; and
- Only 9% see blood tests for airline passengers becoming the norm.
Collaboration essential to tackling aviation’s environmental impact
Discussing some of the ambitious sustainability targets the industry has previously set itself, such as net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, industry experts agreed that collaboration was fundamental.
According to Avianca CEO Anko Van Der Werff, the whole ecosystem needs to work together on this.
Commenting further, Rolls Royce CTO Paul Stein 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.
According to Stein, COVID-19 will not interrupt progress on sustainable aviation and may even push the topic higher on the agenda.
“The post-COVID-19 world is going to be one that will recognise 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,” says Stein.
The FlightPlan poll results reflected this view, with 40% of respondents agreeing that COVID-19 will accelerate the drive to reduce emissions.
On the topic of digitization, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce says the power of connectivity will drive global development and industry recovery.
“Although 2019 already feels as though it belongs to a different era, the pandemic has not slowed the fourth industrial revolution. I believe that digitalization 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,” says Pearce.
The next generation of passengers were at the centre of a discussion around the need for airlines to continue preparing for the future.
Behavioural scientist Rory Sutherland spoke of Generation Z’s “Incredible need to travel”, observing that his own children “don’t see it as a privilege – they kind of see it as a right”.
Commenting further, Aviation Analyst Alex Macheras delved deeper into their digital expectations.
“If airlines are going to better satisfy Gen Z, inflight connectivity will continue to be a driving force,” says Macheras.
Other experts agreed that these attributes, paired with growing spending power, will put young passengers in the driving seat when it comes to digital transformation in the cabin.
Inmarsat Aviation President Philip Balaam says as we look towards recovery and ensuring long-term resilience, there will be no one-size-fits all approach.
“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 changes, reducing environmental impact and improving passenger experience,” says Balaam.
(Ed. FlightPlan, an all-day virtual event hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and APEX Airbus was held on 29 April 2020. Keynote speakers included; Air Transport Action Group, Avianca, Collins Aerospace, Deutsche Telekom, European Space Agency, Honeywell, IATA, Japan Airlines, Panasonic Avionics and Rolls-Royce. To access the webcast, click here.)