Study reveals innovation, safety and trust as key to air transport revival

Global: A joint study by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) shows investment in digital transformation and automation, sustainability and customer experience as central to recovery strategies.

The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios report, the first instalment of the four-part Air Transport 2035 series, explores how stakeholders in the air transport industry expect the crisis to impact passenger volumes and investment strategies.

It also highlights four possible scenarios for how the industry might emerge from the pandemic.

A global survey conducted as part of the report reveals that 68.4 per cent expect investment in digital transformation to increase 60.3 per cent expect investment in automation and the deployment of AI technology to rise.

54.2 per cent expecting spending to increase on sustainable and environmental initiatives, and 48.5 per cent expect to see an upturn in customer experience and service spending.

At the other end of the scale, 75.5 per cent of respondents expect investment in aircraft orders to decrease over the next two years, while 55.3 expect to see a decrease in terminal design and construction spend.

A poll of over 900 people revealed that 44 per cent expect the air transport industry to take two years to return to 2019 levels of business, and a further 36 per cent expect it to take three years.

A different poll found that 39 per cent of respondents expect the public to feel comfortable flying again once new procedures are introduced to protect passengers.

32 per cent expect consumer confidence to return once a COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, with only 11 per cent expecting people will only fly if necessary and 10 per cent expecting World Health Organisation (WHO) advice to dictate when people will feel comfortable flying.

Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future and lead author of the report said: ”The findings highlight that the industry is experiencing and anticipating devastating impacts on flight volumes, passenger numbers, and revenues. The sector’s recovery is dependent on government policy, health factors, passenger confidence, the nature of the economic recovery, and the extent of collaboration between industry players. We developed four scenarios exploring the interaction of these latter two driving forces and tested them on the webinar attendees.”

The four scenarios include:

  • ‘Survival of the Safest’ (deep recession / fragmented industry response) – ranked most likely by 32 per cent of respondents
  • ‘Love in Cold Climate’ (deep recession / co-ordinated industry response) – ranked second most likely by 30 per cent of respondents
  • ‘Hope and Glory’ (robust and integrated economic recovery / fragmented industry response) – 20 per cent agreed
  • ‘Sealed and Secure’ (robust and integrated economic recovery /  co-ordinated industry response) – 18 per cent agreed

Daniel Coleman, founder and CEO of Future Travel Experience, commented: “There is no doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for some time to come and it is more important than ever that airports, airlines, and their partners take steps now to prepare for the new reality. Prioritising health and safety efforts is a given, but all stakeholders must also commit to delivering a contactless, queueless, and fully sanitised end-to-end travel experience that is as automated as possible. Some radical new approaches, and collaboration between all parties, are essential to achieve this vision and support the survival of the air transport industry.”

Joe Leader, CEO of APEX and International Flight Services Association (IFSA), added: “Over 75 per cent of survey respondents still believe in five key areas where airline and airport spending will grow or remain the same despite the COVID-19 headwinds. The winners during this challenging time include digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience and service. That’s positive news for APEX and IFSA member airlines and suppliers.”

The survey included 269 respondents in 47 countries. The full report can be downloaded here. 

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