Travel Radar 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 APEX. The event tagline summarised the day’s proceedings ‘Charting a Course into the Future’.
In this the second of a two-part series, here’s what Dominic (DW) had to say.
TR: You mentioned the significance of digital transformation in a post-COVID-19 world.
DW: Digitisation has been discussed for a number of years and more recently the conversation has picked up pace. There’s no doubt that it will continue, and at an accelerated pace. The COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra impetus. Once this crisis is over, those who will thrive are without doubt those who are quick to adapt to whatever new world we find ourselves in. The faster adoption of technologies that drive efficiency and better customer experience will be a key part of that shift.
TR: What are the other aspects of digitisation that the delegates felt were important?
DW: There are four main elements here: firstly, generating the raw data both from the airframe and engines themselves, from the passengers and from baggage and freight. Secondly, the development and use of algorithms to make sense of those data streams. Thirdly, sharing that information within the broader aviation ecosystem to drive efficiency, and finally, applying that information to management of the enterprise.
TR: You say enterprise; that’s other than just carriers?
Absolutely. Airframe and engine manufacturers, airports, air traffic control, security, immigration and many others—the entire aviation ecosystem. There are enormous possibilities here, both for the users I mentioned but obviously also for the suppliers of the hardware and software to facilitate this transformation.
TR: So the big question; how long before we return to some semblance of normality?
DW: The industry has never experienced a crisis quite like this one before, with global enforced travel bans, so it’s very hard to predict what shape recovery will take. This was a key theme of discussion and debate with experts from across the industry at FlightPlan, and we also asked viewers for predictions in an interactive poll throughout the day. Four in ten (43%) said the recovery will take between 18 months and three years and the recovery will be at about 80% of previous volumes. We’re still very interested in more opinions on this topic and are continuing to gather views via our FlightPlan survey.
TR: Is there any sense of who or what the missing 20% might be?
DW: I don’t get a sense that it’s expected to be necessarily low-cost carriers, legacy carriers or any given market, but clearly some operators are going out of business, some routes are not going to be as well served as previously and there will be fewer passengers for some time.
TR; What’s going to be significant in terms of carriers restoring their networks?
DW: Joe Leader* made an important point on this; a major factor in the speed of restoration is ways in which different governments relax the restrictions on travel. If one country relaxes its travel advisories but the destination requires a quarantine, then clearly the volumes won’t initially be there.
TR: Many thanks for your time and congratulations on a very successful event.
DW: You’re welcome. We’re still keen on hearing views about the path to recovery from COVID-19, so I’d encourage your viewers to complete our poll.
Here’s your chance to shape the conversation! The FlightPlan poll can be found at https://flightplan.wavecast.io/live-survey