Tech innovation vital for mitigating airline crisis

The airline and travel sector’s coronavirus crisis may spark tech innovation in the industry, market participants predict.

Customers will look to travel providers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and what it means for the future of travel, says Jessica Patel, chief revenue officer, Airside, a company providing digital identity solutions in the travel industry. According to Patel, biometric options – such as digital identification and passports – will arise from a desire for “touchless” travel options.

“In the travel world with seamless travel, I think once the industry is able to bounce back from all of this there’s going to be a real focus on what kinds of touchless solutions there are. I think previously there was a focus on seamless solutions with a view to process incremental travellers, to increase the processing speed and just make the general travel experience more convenient.

“I was with a group of industry leaders just last week … and one of the conversations we had as a team was the fact that we felt that all of this would really support innovation across our industry including things like the biometric solutions – not just because of the processing speeds, but because people are going to be looking at safer options to prevent this kind of challenge in the future, and I think  touchless options like biometrics in the airport space do fit that need,” says Patel.

The travel industry was one of the first hit as the coronavirus spread in December 2019. On March 16, the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) predicted that most world airlines will have gone bankrupt by the end of May, presenting an unprecedented threat to the aviation industry.

While the industry will likely see a correlative slowdown in investments, Patel predicts airlines and travel providers will look to boost tech investment over the medium to long term.

“I think the deployment timelines might change just because it doesn’t make sense to pilot or deploy where the capacity is down to these levels, but ultimately I think the industry does see there being a rebound and it almost depends on the demand of travel after all of this changes, after the world recovers from this.

“And it’s still the case that a lot of the stats that have been thrown out by industry bodies about the travel capacity doubling by 2030 still remain; this may create a lag effect, but I think as an industry we’re going to have to continue to adopt these types of innovations just to keep up with the level of travel capacity that’s anticipated for that time period.”

Last month, research by Air Quality News suggested that all major UK airports had plans to expand as experts pointed towards passenger flow doubling in the next decade. If coronavirus proves a temporary blip and travel capacity continues to grow in the long term, travel technology must advance to address the new concerns it has unsurfaced.

“I think people really pay attention to their travel providers’ duty of care in terms of what their policies are around these force majeure events, and also what kind of safety protocols they put forward. That’s why I’m betting that there’s only so much innovation even that will slow down because I think when the industry bounces back, they’ll have to have adopted some new innovations and new technology in order to meet the customer wherever they are,” says Patel.

“I certainly think that those that emerge faster will probably have adopted some of these [biometrics] because they’re going to have to give their customers a sense of security and safety … And I think those that are able to have those solutions available and be able to communicate about those effectively to their passengers are probably going to regain their travel business and their travel customers in a timely way.”

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