Travel Radar (TR) had the opportunity last week to speak with Dominic Walters, Vice President of Inmarsat Aviation shortly after the ‘FlightPlan’ one-day virtual event hosted jointly by Inmarsat and the Airline Passenger Experience Association. (APEX) The event tagline summarised the day’s proceedings ‘Charting a Course into the Future’.
In the first of a two-part series, here’s what Dominic (DW) had to say.
TR: This was a unique event. How did it come about?
DW: I was on holiday in mid-March just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to cause serious concern in Europe. Airlines were beginning to cut back on flights and all the aviation-related conferences and conventions looked like they were going to be cancelled. I asked myself how we could stay engaged with each other. We at Inmarsat and APEX had about six weeks to do the serious planning but judging by the huge amount of participation, it was time well-spent!
TR: What were your main take-aways from the event?
DW: There were two main themes I picked up from the discussions; firstly, at times I think we all feel a little overwhelmed by the news stream. The COVID-19 epidemic news can be all-consuming and depressing. I was struck by the sense of realism but also the degree of optimism shown by the very wide range of senior industry leaders at the event. I can’t express it better than Nick Careen, who’s the Senior Vice President of Airport Passenger Cargo and Security at IATA*. Nick said that although the COVID-19 pandemic has ‘no parallel to draw upon in recent memory… the airline industry has illustrated time and time again that if there’s any industry in the world that knows how to deal with a crisis, it’s this one‘.
TR: And the other theme?
DW: The other theme that struck a particular chord for me was digital transformation. We’ve made some great progress in the area but there’s still enormous opportunity. It’s key to the future of commercial aviation and we need to accelerate progress.
TR: What do you think are the key processes in that acceleration?
DW: I think a lot of the progress will be in real-time, live-streamed information from the aircraft distributed to multiple users with multiple interests.
TR: For example?
DW: One obvious user would be the airports; if we have a live stream from the aircraft to the airport sending progress en route, for example, we can be much more effective in scheduling connections and feeding that back to the affected passengers.
We’ll be continuing with more of Dominic Walters’ views later this week.
*International Air Transport Association