Industry poll: Digital technologies central to aviation’s post-COVID recovery

flightplan survey
Credit: Inmarsat

Despite the financial impact many airlines are facing as a result of COVID-19, many industry players agree that adopting digital and connected technologies will drive recovery—with data analytics, biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IOT) set to have the greatest influence on future profitable growth.

This is the consensus from an industry poll conducted as part of “FlightPlan: Charting a Course into the Future,” an online broadcast by Inmarsat and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Flightplan passenger service
Credit: FlightPlan Survey infographic, provided by Inmarsat

The survey—completed by more than 500 professionals from across the global aviation industry between April and June 2020—also shows that 45% believe that, in terms of passenger experience, the pandemic crisis will cause only a short-term reduction in investment, and almost a third (32%) believe there will be an overall increase in investment.

Despite bracing for a slow recovery, the poll reveals a sense of optimism for the industry’s future, with digitization expected to drive the return to profitable growth. The results also offer insight into what passenger journeys could look like post-pandemic.

Flightplan future growth
Credit: FlightPlan Survey infographic, provided by Inmarsat

Passenger journeys post-COVID

New health and safety guidance from aviation industry bodies such as ICAO and IATA—including enhancing the traceability of customers and establishing clear aircraft decontamination procedures—has driven necessary changes to passenger journeys. The poll finds such developments are set to continue as the industry rebounds.

As a result of deeper aircraft cleaning measures, 9 in 10 (88%) expect slower turnarounds, which could have a significant impact on flight schedules. Contactless catering was highlighted by 57% of respondents as being important during the recovery period, and almost half (44%) expect to see empty middle seats as a common feature of the passenger journey in the coming months despite contrary guidance given by IATA in May.

Flightplan deep cleaning
Credit: FlightPlan Survey infographic, provided by Inmarsat

Inmarsat Aviation president Philip Balaam said: “The immediate priority for airlines and the wider aviation industry is clearly surviving the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. Aviation is taking its first steps towards a recovery and it is encouraging that many in this industry have been proactive in adapting and planning for the future.”

Linda Blachly

Linda Blachly is Senior Associate Editor for Air Transport World and Aviation Week. She joined the company in July 2010 and is responsible for producing features for Air Transport World’s monthly magazine and engaging content for the She is based in the Washington DC office.