Glass Half Full: The Implicit Opportunity in COVID-19 for the Air Transport Industrys

April 12th, 2020

Due to COVID-19, as per Airports Council International (ACI) , the volume of passengers using airports is set for a sharp decline; the Council also indicates that airports in all over the world will be affected.

While many tend to be discouraged by adverse circumstances like these, there exist reasons to be optimistic. The rapid reduction in passenger traffic has allowed airports and airlines an unprecedented opportunity to reflect over the past years and gear up for recovery after the pandemic has subsided. COVID-19, although saddening and regrettable are its consequences, might have provided a sought-after break in the chaotic world of air transportation, allowing for the dedication of time and resources towards evaluating past performance while planning for the upcoming months. Here are some ideas worth considering to make effective use of the opportunity afforded to the air travel industry by the change in passenger volume:

Operational Efficiency: Eero Knuutila of International Airport Review has credited the efficiency of processes at Helsinki Airport as being one of the main drivers of passenger satisfaction. He explains how the airport is using a reliable passenger experience to differentiate itself. Operational efficiency, on a general level, involves the efficient allocation of resources and quick (but informed) decision-making. This, in turn, requires all of an airport's stakeholders to share information with each other for effective decision-making by each airport division.

Environmental Sustainability: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) encourages air transport companies to work towards reducing their impact on the environment by reducing their consumption of fossil fuels along with their emission of pollutants into the air. International Air Transport Association (IATA) aims to halve flight carbon emissions by 2050 (in relation to levels in 2005) and to increase the efficient use of fuel by at least 1.5% year-on-year from 2009-2020. These goals can be achieved by reducing wait time(s) for flights and accurately predicting their landing, take-off and taxi times.

Partnerships and Alliances: According to Tom Boon of Simple Flying, airline partnerships such as the StarAlliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam have bestowed upon the airline industry great benefits including codesharing (multiple airlines marketing a single flight under their respective brands) and the ability for consumers to redeem their reward points across carriers. Accelya shares insights from a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers about the potential of an increase in sales revenue for both airports and airlines should the consumer journey of purchasing goods/services be made seamless at different points of purchase (at home, at the airport and during the flight) through a partnership between airports and airline companies.

Arguably, the most important form of alliance potential available to the airport industry involves the integration of digital systems into the airport management landscape to improve operational (and thus, environmental) efficiency. As per a white paper by Frost and Sullivan, technology allows airports a unique opportunity to increase operational efficiency by increasing their level of productivity and reducing their costs; in addition to that, they allow airports to offer greater value to consumers while improving passenger experience. Hence, technology initiatives, particularly those involving the implementation of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM) solutions, can provide airports with a significant edge over their competition once passenger traffic returns to normal levels.