1. Airlines and airports had to go through many safety precautions due to the pandemic. How did the industry innovate and adapt over the past year?
Of course there are many safety measures air travel has had to undertake this past year due to COVID, from installing HEPA filters on planes, to adapting airports to lesson contact touch points. During the pandemic, many travel insurance companies also specifically added Covid medical and trip interruption / flight reimbursement coverage, and the airlines started waiving change fees. You’ve got air medical transport programs out there like Medjet that, if you are hospitalized while traveling, will arrange medical transportation to your hospital at home. Most travel insurance only evacuates to a nearby hospital, Medjet gets you moved home. They added Covid-19 transport benefits last October, for domestic travel and international destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean as they opened up. Innovation is being embraced by just about everyone in the air travel sector, to restore consumer confidence in the safety and flexibility of their journey.
2. During the pandemic, many travel insurance companies added coverage for trip cancellation and medical expenses due to COVID. There is now talk of COVID-19 travel insurance becoming a vacation staple, what does this mean for the industry?
COVID-19 insurance policies are increasingly joining passports and sunscreen as vacation staples, creating opportunities for insurers as more countries require mandatory coverage, in case visitors fall ill from the coronavirus. Airline bookings are on the rise, driving hopes of a revival in summer traffic. So while the pandemic has arguably battered travel, demand for coverage has created opportunity for the hard-hit insurance industry and a niche to develop new insurance products. While 2020 saw a 20% rise in travelers buying highly priced “cancel for any reason” policies, what is not clear is how coverage demand will evolve as many more people become inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines.
3. When it comes to new tech, airlines and airports were innovating pre-COVID. But how has the pandemic accelerated new tech in the industry?
Though COVID-19’s impact on the aviation industry and travel has been worse compared to most sectors, it has still become a catalyst for innovation, and the integration of newer technologies. COVID-19 has changed the way people think about air travel – and technology is what is making travel possible again. Whether it’s displaying information about travel destinations or providing a contactless journey through the airports, technology is giving consumers the resources they need to make informed decisions, minimize risk and maximize safety while traveling. It is expected that more touchless options will emerge for identity verification. The aviation sector will also experience an acceleration in innovations such as ‘Thermal Imaging’ or ‘Infrared Thermographic Systems’ to enable virtual health screening at airports. Touchless technologies will also push credit cards, touchscreens, or – digital signature pens to a thing of the pas
4. Over the past year, the aviation industry has taken steps to reduce its environmental footprint. Can you talk to us about some of the trends you’re seeing in this space?
Given the landscape of humanity this past year, sustainability has definitely become a much discussed topic in the aviation industry, both economically and ecologically. A great example is how American Airlines recently reached an agreement with Kuehne+Nagel to allocate a portion of the carbon reduction benefit the airline generates – through its use of sustainable aviation fuel – to one of American’s leading cargo customers. This is part of their effort to reduce the impact of aviation on the planet and is the kind of collaboration that should drive real change. The aim is to create a cleaner supply chain and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future. American Airlines has actually set a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and by doing so, is also setting the bar for other airlines to follow.
5. IoT, Artificial intelligence, and big data have totally transformed industries in recent years. How are these technologies touching the aviation industry right now?
Airlines have been looking at how artificial intelligence will play a greater role in operations for several years to help them make better decisions. The pandemic has accelerated the need to incorporate new sources of data such as search engine and social media intent data. The old reliance on historical booking behavior will not be enough as airlines look to plan routes and forecast demand as they recover from the pandemic. Shorter booking windows and scheduling windows mean airlines need to be more flexible and incorporate more real-time information to predict demand. Some travel technology companies are already filling the gap with Skyscanner, for example, recently adding an Unscheduled Routes module to its business intelligence technology.