Air transport technology: enabling the 'new normal'

19th May 2020
Air transport technology: enabling the 'new normal'
Image: courtesy SITA

By Andrew O'Connor , VP Portfolio Management, SITA
May 19 2020:In May 2020 air transport lies physically and financially fragmented, with major airlines grounded, flight schedules cut by up to 80% globally, and many countries closing their borders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Despite this global turmoil, the industry is aligning around the need for trust, technology and collaboration to support the recovery to a ‘new normal’ for air travel. The emerging trends from the pandemic will forge a leaner, safer and smarter air transport industry that rebuilds trust and confidence in passengers, underpinning the next decade of travel.
Economic pressures will drive new operational efficiencies
In the coming weeks and months, airlines will look to return to the skies with some consideration on the shrinking of fleets. In the longer term one of the primary focuses will be on how to drive new operational cost efficiencies with smarter and more efficient aircraft and turnaround operations. Airport operations will need to become flexible and adaptive to rapidly changing passenger volumes and requirements.
Safety and security will adapt
Until now, the air transport industry’s focus on ‘safety and security’ has mainly concentrated on the aircraft and safety procedures. After 9/11, we began to consider ‘anti-terrorism’ measures as an essential aspect of the safety and security of passengers. Post-2020, our industry will add ‘health’ as one of our major considerations for travel, with health screens a solution in the short term. In the long term we’ll see airport technology that enables social distancing, digitized records of vaccinations shared in a trusted environment and mobile automation for passengers to control all aspects of their journey.
The focus on sustainability will intensify
As people start to fly again, we will see new norms and regulations linked to sustainability. The pressure for a more sustainable air transport industry will no doubt intensify, with a demand for cleaner skies. It is also possible that we will see a shift to leisure travel as businesses ramp-up the use of digital solutions to connect with their customers and employees.
The road to recovery
The  industry faces major decisions as passenger leisure travel plans change, and as business travel see cuts– certainly in the short term – in favor of virtual meetings and events. But “Necessity is the mother of invention,” as John Strickland said in a recent Aviation Festival webinar interview with SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard. This is a pivotal point in time.
Full paper here