Aviation experts debate the future of the industry

The all-day virtual event exploring current and future issues draws over 3,000 viewers

Inmarsat Aviation VP, Dominic Walters, at the FlightPlan studio: "…we wanted to connect the industry in a unique and helpful way, and the response has been phenomenal." Credit: Inmarsat Aviation

WORLDWIDE - An online broadcast event which brought together aviation leaders debated critical issues facing the airline industry last week.

Entitled FlightPlan: Charting a Course into the Future, the event examined the current state of the aviation market and the latest predictions for recovery, while also driving debate on wider industry issues, from next generation passenger trends and the future of air travel technology to short and long-term solutions for tackling aviation sustainability.

The all-day virtual event hosted by Inmarsat Aviation and APEX saw more than 50 leading voices voice their views on the present and future of aviation. Over 3,000 viewers tuned in from almost 100 countries for a series of live debates, interviews and news analysis.

Mr Nick Careen, senior VP of Airport Passenger Cargo and Security at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), predicted that changes to airline passenger journeys may include staggered boarding processes, alongside faster adoption of biometrics and self-service technologies in the airport.

In an interactive poll, FlightPlan viewers were invited to share their own predictions on the COVID-19 recovery phase throughout the day.

Highlights from the results:
• 4 in 10 (43%) predicted that recovery will take from 18 months to three years
• 4 in 10 (44%) said the industry was poorly prepared for COVID-19
• Nearly two fifths (36%) stated that governments have helped the industry to navigate the pandemic, but could have done more
• 9 in 10 (87%) expect to see more deep cleaning and slower turnarounds
• 86% believe that personal protective equipment will become standard for cabin crews in the coming months
• 8 in 10 (80%) expect thermal scanners to become part of the passenger journey
• Only 9% see blood tests for airline passengers becoming the norm.

Sustainable aviation
Experts agreed that a unified effort was essential to tackling aviation's environmental impact to achieve the industry's ambitious sustainability targets of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The impact of single-nation initiatives has been limited and a coalition of industry bodies, airlines, manufacturers and fuel providers is needed.

Industry leaders expressed confidence that COVID-19 will not interrupt progress on sustainable aviation and may even push the topic higher on the agenda, as the post-COVID-19 world will recognise the fragility of the planet. The FlightPlan poll results reflected this view, with 40% of respondents agreeing that COVID-19 will accelerate the drive to reduce emissions.

Changing behaviour
Digitisation will catalyse industry recovery and future growth. Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, spoke about the power of connectivity to drive global development and industry recovery: "I believe that digitalisation lies at the heart of our ability to first survive this crisis, and then to drive our ability to rebound from it and start to thrive in whatever new reality lies in front of us."

The next generation of passengers were at the centre of a discussion around the need for airlines to continue preparing for the future. Behavioural scientist Mr Rory Sutherland, spoke of Generation Z's "incredible need to travel".

Aviation analyst, Mr Alex Macheras, delved deeper into this group's digital expectations, adding that "if airlines are going to better satisfy Gen Z, inflight connectivity will continue to be a driving force."

Mr Philip Balaam, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said: "As we look towards recovery and ensuring long-term resilience, there will be no one-size-fits all approach. However, it will remain important that airlines can differentiate for customers. It's clear that the safety of consumers will continue to be at the forefront in this new world, and that digitisation and innovation will be crucial to driving much-needed efficiencies, reducing environmental impact and improving passenger experience."

Mr Dominic Walters, VP, Inmarsat Aviation, said: "In times of crisis, it's imperative that industries collaborate to find the best way forward. With so many of this year's leading aviation events cancelled, we wanted to connect the industry in a unique and helpful way, and the response has been phenomenal.

Inmarsat is a world leader in global, mobile satellite communications. It owns and operates diverse global portfolio of mobile telecommunications satellite networks.