5 Things Airports and Airlines Ought to Consider in a Post-Coronavirus World
The global Aviation industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world airport terminals are deserted due to travel bans and enforced lockdowns, fleets of planes are parked in their hundreds in hangars and employees have been laid off or furloughed.
Even in the darkest of times, we should look ahead to the future and at the better days to come, but we do so knowing the world will never be the same again… Our casual confidence in all things is gone and the need for reassurance and deep questioning of everything will be the new normal.
Airports and airlines are part of our modern life and no doubt will bounce back. I believe those that survive must carefully consider taking the right steps and actions early on to enable passengers to confidently return to the skies.
These are five initiatives for the Aviation industry to now consider:
1) Body Temperature Scanners
Airports need to invest in body temperature scanners ideally installed alongside existing security gates. These could be easily incorporated into existing security protocols and already exists in countries such as South Korea and Malaysia. Similarly, airlines should equip crew with hand-held body temperature scanners at departure gates as part of final pre-boarding checks. This dual approach if adopted, will reassure passengers and spark confidence to embark on flights.
2) Redesigned Airport Layout
Better use of technology is a win-win for all, we want less of the army of check-in desks and more use of digital tools, such as, touchscreen pads upon entry into departure halls to issue boarding passes and unmanned passport readers. The good news is some airports have already embraced this design principle; however, it needs to be more widely adopted worldwide. There are benefits in many areas: it prevents staff from engaging with lengthy cumbersome queues, makes use of mobile and digital tools most passengers are familiar with and have in their possession, improves the airport experience for all, allows more time for the all-important duty-free shopping and reduces the opportunities of staff exposure to possible health risks from ill passengers.
3) Diversify Routes
In the short-term (for the years to come), airlines need a fresh think about where they fly. Airlines should perhaps explore emerging markets around the globe in Africa, South America and Asia. These destinations usually have less competition, most likely due to ignored demand from many airlines or insufficient flights to support existing demand. I would suggest airlines focus on diverse routes that deliver more profit per passenger per mile flown than saturated glamourous routes offering negative margins. I fully accept the many challenges with emerging markets – local infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, and safety, however, as difficult the challenges are, they must be faced head on with bold thinking for airlines to thrive in the future.
4) Growth of Cargo Operations
The global lockdown has produced surprising changes in individual and government behaviour. Airlines should fully embrace the growth in cargo businesses from the likes of Amazon, supermarket groceries, medical equipment supplies (for health authorities and governments) and pharmaceutical deliveries. Whilst passengers may be locked down, there are significant cargo opportunities for savvy airlines to take advantage off. Airlines should now invest in this previously overlooked part of their operations to capitalise on the growth/need for goods from around the world.
5) Price Incentives
This is one the Aviation industry knows and understands off by heart. Upon easing of the global travel restrictions, there will be many eager and able to book a holiday or business trip, however, those impacted economically may be slower to book that trip or holiday. Therefore, airlines should be prepared to incentivise passengers to fly, and price plays a key role in this. Airlines should do whatever it takes and for as long as it's necessary to ensure fares are priced right for the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.
In conclusion, airlines will return to the skies and passengers will want to see colleagues, friends, family members and exciting destinations once again. Whilst things are unlikely to return to previous years on exactly the same scale, it offers the industry the opportunity to come up new ingenious ways of doing business that reflects our collective new normal after this pandemic.
Stay safe, stay healthy we will get through this.