In this instalment of Expert Opinions, APEX Media’s Op-Ed series, Monica Wick, CEO of aviation summit series RedCabin, identifies a silver lining in the effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry. She also highlights the important role of cross-industry collaboration in the industry’s recovery.
The coronavirus outbreak has decimated industries and economies around the world, arguably none more so than commercial aviation. Recent data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates global passenger traffic will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024 at the earliest – with airlines predicted to lose $419 billion pounds in revenue this year.
This is a bleak forecast. While things may never be the same, this is an opportunity for things to be better – for air travel to be reborn. This rebirth goes beyond just functional actions to enhance hygiene and should also focus on ways to reimagine the whole air travel experience.
One hugely positive thing to come out of this crisis has been our industry’s ability to collaborate and develop new partnerships and ideas that do exactly that. The crisis meant innovation became an immediate necessity and very quickly we saw radical new seating concepts being unveiled; with airlines reimagining their service and soft products to include hygiene kits. New testing and screening operations have also been rolled out at airports. The sheer scale and speed in which new systems, operations and concepts have been developed has been unprecedented.
I have always held a belief that aviation is unique; not only because of the freedom and experiences it provides but because of its people. The response to the pandemic has reinforced that view and as we start out on this road to recovery, it is people who will determine the future success of our industry.
Already we have seen the power of collaboration, with airlines, designers, engineers and manufacturers joining forces to tackle the biggest challenges facing cabin hygiene. If we can continue to build on this collaborative approach, and put competitive advantage to one side, we can reimagine the flying experience and realise a vision for a safer, sustainable and more accessible industry.
When looking for partners we should look beyond the boundaries of aviation too. Cross-industry partnerships can offer a great deal to the future prosperity of air travel. Take the medical industry as one example: they have long been using ultra-violet (UV) light to disinfect surfaces so their research can inform our understanding of its potential use for aircraft interiors. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters – which are used in many aircraft – are built to medical-grade standards, so when discussing cabin air systems, we can all benefit from tapping into that knowledge base.
In doing so, these cross-industry partnerships will help speed up the post-COVID recovery – as new products and processes can be developed and integrated quicker and more effectively using shared expertise.
This ethos of open, honest collaboration is already being applied across our industry to drive innovation. New working groups, setup in response the pandemic, have brought expert voices from all walks of life to the table and are now leading the charge to establish industry standards for aircraft cabin hygiene. The threat of COVID-19 may go away over time but cabin hygiene will be a major driver of brand loyalty in this new age of air travel; and industry standards will give passengers a much clearer picture as to the cleanliness of the plane they intend to board.
The status quo has shifted and in order for passenger demand for air travel to return to somewhere near pre-COVID levels as quickly as possible, the aviation industry will need to continue to adapt and collaborate.
There is never a better time for us to work together to build a better future for aviation – all we have to do is embrace it.
Monica Wick is the founder and CEO of RedCabin, a global aviation summit series which brings experts together to develop new products, partnerships and processes to tackle the biggest challenges in aviation and improve the passenger experience. Based in Berlin, she has more than two decades’ experience in the industry and understands the important role collaboration plays in bringing true innovation to market.