• Wed. Jun 22nd, 2022

At the end of April, a virtual event called FlightPlan took place, during which the future of aviation was discussed by more than 50 contributors, including aerospace and airline leaders from around the world. The talks, hosted by Inmarsat Aviation in conjunction with APEX, covered everything from digitization in industry to tackling CO2 and contactless technology at airports.

As a follow-up to this event, organizers have run an interactive survey of 537 aviation professionals through June this year – to provide a general insight into how industry opinion is formed around a potential recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Now, the results of that poll have been released, and you’ll find an exclusive first look at them below.

– How long do you think it will take the global airline industry to return to 2019 total revenue levels?

6 to 12 months – 7%

12 to 18 months – 19%

18 months to 3 years – 44%

3 years – 16%

More than 3 years – 14%

Don’t know – 1%

– How well prepared do you think the airline industry was for the COVID pandemic?

Poorly prepared – 46%

Unable to prepare for such a Black Swan event – 41%

Rather prepared – 12%

Very well prepared – 1%

Don’t know – 1%

– Will the airline industry survive the COVID crisis?

Yes, but fundamentally changed – 69%

Yes, of course – 20%

Will not recover as we know it – 7%

Permanently damaged – 4%

– Have world governments done enough to support the aviation industry?

Yes, but only in certain markets and regions – 40%

Helped, but not enough – 36%

No, absolutely not – 13%

Yes, absolutely – 7%

Don’t know – 5%

– What aspect of the aviation industry do you think will recover the fastest?

Domestic travel – 85% / International travel – 15%

Business travel – 69% / Leisure travel – 31%

Point-to-point routes – 70% / Star routes – 30%

Low Cost Carriers – 55% / Full Service Carriers – 45%

Many of the results are not surprising, for example that domestic travel is expected to recover largely faster than international travel – logical given ongoing and unpredictable border closures and travel restrictions.

The fact that 69% of respondents said business travel would recover faster than leisure travel is intriguing, however, as most forecasts so far point the other way. So far what we’ve seen is that leisure travel is driving much of the increase in flights this summer in Europe, for example – so it will be interesting to see what will happen on that front when we get to the fall.

Nick Careen, senior vice president for airport, passengers, cargo and security at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), thinks it’s too early to tell.

“The initial trip could be for leisure purposes – in particular to reconnect or reunite families. This is the experience seen in some countries where travel restrictions have been relaxed. In the northern hemisphere, the peak summer holiday season may also induce some initial leisure travel, as borders are reopened and travel is possible. Such a journey may not be sustained beyond this initial stage,” Careen said.

“Indeed, for some – perhaps many – the health risks will remain paramount even where the virus appears to have been contained. Pleasure travelers may be reluctant to travel or seek other means of transportation for some time until they are convinced that the health risks have diminished. Rising unemployment could also be a factor for some potential leisure travelers. All of this could be why survey respondents pointed to the resumption of business travel. »

But Careen thinks that eventually companies will have to bring their employees out into the world and meet face to face, despite all the technology we have to meet from home. “As businesses have weathered the crisis with video conferencing and other technology solutions, there is no substitute for the ability to hold face-to-face business meetings and build professional relationships. In some regions more that in others it is a business imperative and will be critical to restarting business and economic activity.

The poll also indicated that there is fairly broad agreement on how long it will take the industry to return to pre-COVID levels, with 60% estimating a period of 18 months to 3 years. Although interestingly, 26% were more optimistic, predicting this would happen by 2021 at the latest.

Joe Leader, CEO of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), said while flying remains a very safe way to get around, in order to truly get the majority of people back in the air, the world needs to develop a consistent and clear to test air passengers.

“The United States has returned to higher levels of air travel despite the increase in COVID-19, this is because air travel remains the safest mode of transportation other than one’s own personal vehicle,” he said. declared Leader. “Globally, we need a more consistent approach to international air travel that requires passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test to prove they can travel, rather than forcing them to quarantine at the other end of their journey. Air travelers deserve certainty in return for their diligence and care.

A large majority (89%) said the industry would recover, although most (69%) thought it would emerge fundamentally changed. While it’s hard to say what this will mean and how long it will take, there is some optimism in the industry that this will be an opportunity to emerge stronger, healthier and much better prepared for future recessions. .

“Outlooks and forecasts change daily, and with so many unknowns, it’s hard to predict exactly what the future holds,” said Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation. “This is by no means the first crisis in aviation, so we know how to adapt well to unexpected challenges. Although bracing for a slow recovery, the poll reveals a sense of optimism for the future, with only 1 in 20 respondents believing the industry will be permanently damaged by COVID-19.

And Balaam believes digitization will be at the heart of this recovery.

“Survey respondents – and many FlightPlan experts – also predict that digitalization will drive aviation back to profitable growth. Lessons learned from other industries strongly support this view. At the turn of the 21st century, shipping faces its deepest recession since the 1930s, with rising costs and falling revenues. Instead of hiding and canceling new ships, an industry notoriously slow to adopt technology has turned to digitalization to deliver much-needed efficiencies. If we can learn one lesson from the crisis response, it’s that digitalization can increase business efficiency, automation and intelligence, and strengthen customer engagement. »

“While for many airlines short-term survival is the only agenda item, the strongest players are already planning for the reset and recovery phases ahead,” Balaam continued. “We believe the crisis could prove a watershed moment for digital transformation in a historically lagging industry. After COVID-19, we will see new leaders emerge because they have taken steps to improve their capabilities, some even unknowingly before others.