As flights pick up after the global grounding for much of the past 18 months, it should be no surprise that airlines and their passenger experience partners are making adjustments to meet changing consumer sensibilities. The accelerated digitalisation that helped airlines to support their passengers during the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down. In fact, it promises to further enhance connections between airlines and their passengers over the comings years.
Back in 2019, the Passenger Experience Conference hosted a discussion, called Flying for All, to examine how an onboard experience could be created that works for every passenger, including those with mobility, visual or hearing impairments. It was one of the most impassioned sessions ever held at PEC, with speakers and audience alike keen to share ideas and experiences.
Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has catalysed major social and economic changes, including the culture around flying. Yet the goal of making the journey safe, dignified and enjoyable for everyone seems just as intractable. This is not from lack of individual innovations and initiatives, but the broad mindsets within aviation could benefit from some introspection. It is self-evident that implementing systemic changes for passengers with disabilities will require a highly collaborative approach and the setting of new industry standards.
Arguably, the single greatest burden to our planet is food production, food handling and waste management. The airline industry, as a people business, necessarily shares this burden. And if the climate crisis is not enough motivation to tackle inefficiencies in the system, the business implications surely are. The forward-thinking airlines are turning to innovative tech tools that harness artificial intelligence and data analytics for solutions.
The environmental case for tackling food waste is increasingly hard to ignore. Unconsumed food, included losses at pre-consumer levels, is associated with some 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions according to United Nations calculations.
More than 100 years before the Wright brothers took to the air, Sir George Cayley, while musing on his principals of aerodynamics that would define aviation, it occurred to him that new technologies to make planes lighter would be a critical issue. This lead him, among other things, to invent the bicycle wheel. Sir George’s desire to reduce weight remains just as relevant today as the aviation industry focuses on reducing its carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
Moves to reduce emissions are currently concentrated on airframe and operational innovations, plus new energy sources, while the interiors community’s focus is on materials and systems that underpin cabin function.