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Automation and digital transformation key for air transport industry recovery post COVID-19

Automation and digital transformation key for air transport industry recovery post COVID-19

Faced with COVID-19 challenges, the air transport industry is developing recovery strategies that boost safety and trust, with a specific focus on digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience, claims a new report released by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Airports and technology providers have already begun exploring ways to increase passenger confidence with touchless biometrics.

Titled “The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios,” the report is part of a four-part series investigating how stakeholders see passenger flow and investment post COVID-19. Despite market uncertainty, the report proposes four strategy scenarios.

“The findings highlight that the industry is experiencing and anticipating devastating impacts on flight volumes, passenger numbers, and revenues,” said Rohit Talwar, Fast Future CEO and lead author of the report, in a prepared statement. “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.”

In the following two years, nearly 69 percent of air industry stakeholders expect a spike in digital transformation investment, 60.3 percent feel automation and AI deployment will increase, and 54.2 percent think sustainability and environmental initiatives will play a key role. More than half predict a push for innovation, while 48.5 percent forecast a higher interest in customer experience and service. Three quarters of respondents expect a drop in aircraft orders and more than half predict a lower interest in terminal design and construction.

The report estimates the industry will need some two to three years to recover from the negative effects of COVID-19. In a webinar held in April, only 6 percent out of more than 900 respondents trust the industry will bounce back in the next year. If new procedures are implemented for passenger safety, 30 percent believe people will start traveling again.

“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,” said Daniel Coleman, founder and CEO of Future Travel Experience, in a prepared statement. “Prioritizing health and safety efforts is a given, but all stakeholders must also commit to delivering a contactless, queue less, and fully sanitized 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.”

“Over 75 percent 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,” said Joe Leader, CEO, Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and International Flight Services Association (IFSA), in a prepared statement. “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.”

Market analysts have forecast that biometrics will drive a major increase in investment into airport operations over the next five years.

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