anna.aero is very closely aligned with Future Travel Experience (FTE) and is reporting on the live highlights from FTE APEX Virtual Expo 2021 (25-26 May 2021).
Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World; Zeinab Badawi, Presenter, BBC World News; Rob Gurney, CEO oneworld; and Joe Leader, CEO, APEX/IFSA.
The conference began with a session on Leadership Perspectives on Relaunching Global Air Transport, featuring Rob Gurney, CEO oneworld, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World, and Joe Leader, CEO, APEX/IFSA. Led by moderator Zeinab Badawi, Presenter, BBC World News, it was a fascinating discussion, covering forecasts for recovery, collaboration and the future of the airport-airline relationship, the importance of globally harmonised measures such as Digital Health Passes, and the innovations being implemented to achieve the fastest possible recovery.
Rob Gurney, CEO oneworld, explained that the vaccine rollout means the alliance’s family is optimistic in terms of the recovery. “The biggest impediment to restarting international travel is government travel restrictions. What we’re seeing with quarantine is that it’s a blunt instrument, and the social and economic impact is catastrophic.”
oneworld, along with Star Alliance and SkyTeam, has urged governments to implement passenger testing protocols and adopt Digital Health Pass technology. Several oneworld members (IAG, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways) are among the airlines trialling the digital IATA Travel Pass, for example, and oneworld is evaluating a number of Digital Health Passes, including IATA Travel Pass. “It’s fair to say that none of these platforms deliver the full suite of capabilities we need right now. The good news is that there’s an enormous amount of effort going into these platforms. I don’t think it will be one-size-fits-all – there will be a number of platforms.”
Gurney emphasised that customer reassurance is critical going forward. “It’s very important as an industry that we clearly communicate the measures being taken.”
He also said the pandemic provides an opportunity to reset the relationship between airlines and airports. “We are delighted to see a much deeper level of cooperation with airports as we prepare for the restart.”
Another key topic of discussion was climate change. In September 2020 oneworld, and all of its members, announced a commitment to Net Zero 2050. “Already we have seen that, within the oneworld alliance, Finnair has committed to that same target by 2045. Alaska Airlines, which joined our alliance at the end of March, has committed to that target by 2040.”
Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World, forecasts that global traffic will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023/2024, depending on the rollout of vaccines and opening of borders. He noted that markets with significant domestic traffic will recover fastest. “We need harmonisation to ensure a safe, sustainable, robust recovery. Digital Health Passes need to happen and there are good examples of them working around the world, but we don’t have a clear view of the interoperability of the systems.”
He also emphasised that airports have prioritised the health and safety of passengers and staff during the pandemic. ACI World has partnered with Bureau Veritas to launch an Airport Health Measures Audit Programme, with 600 airports participating so far.
Touchless technologies and biometrics were also discussed, with de Oliveira commenting that these are a key focus for airport investment. 64% of airports aim to roll-out biometric self-boarding gates by 2023 for example.
Joe Leader, CEO, APEX/IFSA, commented that the recovery may come quicker than many people are expecting, particularly in markets with significant domestic traffic. “It will be a little bit of an up and down recovery, but I see it being faster than expected because of the rollout of vaccines among those who travel most.”
He highlighted APEX Health Safety powered by SimpliFlying, which sets the industry standard for customer-centric COVID-19 certification, and provides a 58-point checklist of health safety measures. Leader noted that it is designed to give airlines a proactive role in the resumption of global travel, create a common standard of health safety for passengers, and highlight successful industry practices.
He also explained that we are going to see more contactless technologies, such as biometrics, and technologies focused on improved air circulation.
On the subject of climate change, Leader added: “Environmental concerns are number one for the ongoing decade for our customers travelling worldwide. I believe the airline industry has an obligation to set an example for the rest of the world as to how quickly we can advance and change. One of things that amazes me, which often gets overlooked, is that while we’re 2-3% of global emissions depending on the studies that you read, the airline industry has significantly reduced carbon emissions on a per-seat basis.”
Leader concluded by encouraging airports and airlines to continuously educate their customers about all the steps being proactively taken. “Share with customers what you’re doing and don’t let a busy airport or busy aircraft become the social media story. It’s always about being diligent, making sure people are wearing a mask and social distancing. We need to be a leader for our world in how to successfully move through this crisis.”
Airlines and airports can register for a free access-all-areas pass, including the virtual exhibition hall, conference sessions, and networking areas.
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