Historically, the aviation industry has seen monumental shifts and changes since its inception, so there was no doubt that the industry would withstand the impact of a global pandemic. But along the way, there were significant lessons learned about the aviation ecosystem, that will undoubtedly accelerate industry transformation in the years to come.
As Connected Aviation Today explores these lessons learned from 2021, we connected with Rakan Khaled, General Manager for Airport Systems at Collins Aerospace. Khaled told us that the most important lesson learned in 2021 was around collaboration across the industry. “We can’t look at any of the sectors within aviation or airports independently,” he said. He stressed the importance of looking at the passenger process from a holistic point of view to consider how to enable a contactless passenger journey and boost overall confidence. That requires collaboration across many aviation stakeholders.
Khaled shared this along with how technology became the enabler to accelerate industry recovery and boost passenger confidence. Read these thoughts and more in the Q&A below:
Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: What were some of the most important lessons learned across the aviation space this year?
Rakan Khaled: In 2020, the industry was hit with a pandemic that no one saw coming. We learned a lot with multiple lockdowns, countries closing borders, non-standardization of travel policies and procedures along with many other factors that impacted the industry.
We then entered 2021 with a long list of lessons learned and applied those throughout the year. During this time, we experienced a return to growth in passenger traffic but with changes in processes, regulations, and requirements for travel.
During this time, the most important lesson we have learned is that we can’t look at any of the sectors within aviation independently. We must view the passenger process holistically and consider the entire ecosystem to operate effectively. We came to understand that collaboration between all parties within the ecosystem was necessary to make the journey through the airport as seamless and contactless as possible. Additionally, we rapidly understood the importance of focusing on the psychological aspects of the passenger and their travel experience and how to restore their confidence in safe travel.
Everyone rapidly concluded that technology is, and will continue to be, the key enabler to an improved airport environment. Self-service airport solutions with biometrics allowed the passenger to check-in, process baggage, help get through security and finally board planes without showing boarding passes or identification and with minimal interaction with airport and airline staff. Additionally, digitalization and analytics have evolved and played an immense role in providing airport management with the right tools to make the right decisions, at the right time.
CAT Editors: Where do you think we saw the most growth in the industry in 2021?
Khaled: We continued to see growth with self-service solutions integrated with biometric platforms in both airports and airlines. While biometric solutions started before the pandemic, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the adoption rate as the demand for easier, contactless methods to process passengers grew. Additionally, the introduction of digital health passports such as IATA Travel Pass that provide the necessary information to airlines to ensure that their passengers fully complied with international travel requirements provided the required confidence to passengers, airlines, and governments alike. Each of these new initiatives is helping to drive an increase in travel as we emerge from the pandemic.
CAT Editors: Overall, how would you finish this sentence: 2021 was the year of _____.
Khaled: It was the year of resilience, innovation, and adaptability for the entire aviation ecosystem. Our industry plays a very important role in connecting the world together. That connection is more important now than ever. But we have the added responsibility of maintaining the safety and confidence of those who travel. As borders open up, the number of passengers ramp up, we have to work harder and smarter to ensure that we meet our responsibilities. As Collins Aerospace continues to advance our capabilities across the full aviation ecosystem, our ability to adapt, predict, and act will be essential to the success of our businesses and how we improve our customers’ businesses.