The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a crisis that has been unprecedented for the aviation industry with travel restrictions, suspension of operations, grounding of flights and liquidity pressures. Our Collaboration Forum brought together an eminent panel of aviation industry experts from across the region to share their perspective on dealing with the present crisis and insights on how they see the industry emerge in the long term.
- Aviation industry is amongst the most affected industries due to COVID-19. Passengers have lost confidence and are skeptical to travel.
- Passenger Health and Safety is of utmost importance, both from the perspective of compliance with safety measures issued by Health authorities, as well as regaining customer confidence.
- Industry players are focusing on new opportunities in these challenging times through collaboration, innovation and digital transformation in order to revive the industry to cater to post COVID-19 scenario.
- Airlines have taken the opportunity to leverage technology, carry out aircraft maintenance and automate processes for cost savings and increasing efficiencies.
- Industry is adopting a cautious approach towards liquidity planning, scenario planning and considering opportunities for re-negotiations.
A poll conducted during the session highlighted that 50% of the respondents were willing to travel within next 3 months, whereas only 11% were skeptical and would consider travel only after COVID impact is subsided.
Opportunities amid Challenges
- Considering the reduction in commercial flights, airlines have focused on cargo transportation and operating repatriation flights to meet fixed costs and other operational expenses.
- Industry players have taken the opportunity to provide required trainings to staff and pilots including simulator trainings and conducting equipment maintenance.
- The time is being utilized to renovate airports and equipment.
- Airlines are reviewing end to end customer journey to explore the possibilities of improving contactless operations and social distancing.
Passenger and Employee Safety is top priority
- Safety of the passengers and the frontline staff is of utmost importance. Steps have been taken to conduct surveys about passengers concern for traveling amid COVID and deploying possible safety measures basis the responses received, and the measures mandated by the Health Authorities.
- With the help of increased collaboration with Health and other relevant authorities, the industry has been able to provide a constant and accurate updates to the passengers and create awareness.
- There is focus on declarations and conducting health checks to ensure safety of all passengers.
- Passengers and front line staff are being provided with adequate information, trainings and safety kits. The new normal shall include safety measures such as face masks, sanitizers for passengers, regular sanitization of aircraft and contactless travel.
- Front line staff are advised to maintain social distancing, use safety kits and frequent sanitizing. Efforts are being made to rotate them and also monitor their accommodation to ensure safety and business continuity.
Participants rated the importance of safety measures such as face masks (68%), sanitizing the aircraft (63%), contactless check-ins (62%) and social distancing between passengers (59%) for regaining passenger confidence.
Transformation through technological enhancement and automation - Need of the hour
- The crisis situation has presented an opportunity for the industry to invest in technology and innovation. Leveraging on digital technology by taking initiatives like upgrading online loyalty program platform for passengers and flight planning software amongst other possibilities.
- Contactless airport operations including appointment prior arrival, electronic boarding passes, pre-printed baggage tags and baggage delivery are some of the steps being taken towards ensuring safer travel.
- The initiatives undertaken are also likely to reduce queuing and increase convenience.
82% of the respondents believes that there will be an adoption of technology towards increased automation and contactless travel at airlines and airports in future.
Collaboration – A key to success
- The importance of collaboration during these challenging times has become more relevant. This includes collaboration amongst airlines, between airlines and airports and collaboration with regulatory authorities.
- In one of the GCC countries, an important initiative was taken to establish a hotline between the airline and the health ministry, which ensured timely update of health information and addressing passenger queries relating to safety and health measures.
- A need was also felt within the industry players to share relevant customer data, knowledge, ideas, technologies and other resources amongst each other to enhance the operations and provide more customer focused services.
- While the industry is suffering huge financial losses, they are conscious of maintaining a balance between financial and commercial interests.
- There is a continued focus on incurring capital expenditure and accelerate digital transformation strategies to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.
- All efforts are being made to preserve cash, these include providing alternate options to passengers for delays or cancellations, conducting renegotiations with suppliers and financers and maintaining a leaner organization.
- Evaluate alternate strategies to build and increase upselling of ancillary value added services.
- Explore options for joint ventures and consolidation amongst industry players.
- Expect subdued demand for air travel for next 2-3 years before rebounding.
- Implementing Health and Safety measures at airports and aircrafts is of utmost importance to regain customer confidence.
- Collaborate and work together towards the common goal of reviving the aviation industry.
- Accelerate digital transformation and technological advancement is a priority.
- Cash is king. Be frugal in liquidity planning.
- Constant communication with the passengers to impart awareness on flight operations and health measures.