In April Inmarsat Aviation and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) collaborated in hosting FlightPlan: Charting a Course for the Future. At the time, the airline industry had suffered greatly from the downward shift in commercial aviation. The event, broadcast virtually, brought together thousands of worldwide watchers to collaborate, discuss and brainstorm what the pathway to recovery would look like for the industry.

Now, with nine months of experience under their belt, the two organizations hosted a sequel of sorts, FlightPlan: Strategies for Recovery. The purpose of the event was to answer lingering unanswered questions. What has been learned? What strategies for recovery have emerged? Which innovations have been met with optimism?

Throughout FlightPlan: Strategies for Recovery, participants discussed the technology trends that have moved airline recovery forward. Philippe Lievin, Integrated Digital Solutions (IDS) Marketing Director at Collins Aerospace, and Robert Sapitowicz, Director of Marketing & Business Development, at Collins Aerospace, both shared their insight on creating a sustainable recovery and boosting passenger confidence in air travel.

A sustainable recovery, according to Lievin, will require a more connected ecosystem that relies on data analytics. “Even in the midst of this pandemic we can leverage analytics programs,” Lievin began, noting that analytic software, like Collins Aerospace’s Ascentia, can be used to review and optimize fleets. “We can optimize the process of air traffic control itself,” to save money on fuel and “contribute to an efficient aircraft return to service,” which would decrease maintenance costs.

This focus on the role that analytics plays in the new connected ecosystem impacts each aspect of the passenger journey.  Lievin shared what the Collins Aerospace teams were doing with the enhanced data analytics. “Our airport team is now focused on the contactless passenger journey, same as our cabin team, which is focusing on contactless services.” Lievin notes that the industry must work on building its decision-making process around three main pillars to successfully recover.

The first is the physical pillar, which Lievin describes as the hardware needed to bring each plane into the network and create a connected environment. The second is the data pillar, which requires the use of data at the core of all decision-making to create meaningful action with measurable impacts. Finally, the third pillar is the application pillar, which sees the use of collaborative approaches between the industry to work together towards recovery.

Later in the conference, Sapitowicz elaborated on how the contactless passenger experience will enable recovery. “There will be a basic change needed to go into the airport, a change that creates a new environment” where passengers can be “contactless, congestion-less, and get to their flight as quickly as possible.” Sapitowicz pointed to several technologies that are now available or soon to be made available that will have a positive impact on passenger confidence.

The first is the expanded use of self-service kiosks for boarding passes and bags. “What we are doing is developing the ability to have that process be entirely contactless by using your mobile phone,” Sapitowicz noted, adding “On top of that is biometrics,” which enables a passenger’s face to be their primary travel identification token. “You no longer need to pull out ID’s like passports, or boarding passes,” to get to your flight.

However, as the needs of customers and realities of air travel change, Sapitowicz notes that there is more to be done. “We’re doing research with airports, airlines, and passengers to understand the specific areas and pain points that passengers expect to be solved for them to come back.”  In the end, the health of the airport will rely on passengers returning. Sapitowicz concludes optimistically saying that he believes that “when passengers start seeing and hearing about the contactless passenger journey and how simple it is” the passengers will return. FlightPlan: Strategies for Recovery ended on a positive note, with many of the speakers and discussions concluding that, though it will be a long journey, recovery is possible. What is clear following FlightPlan: Strategies for Recovery is that the industry is on the right course to recovery, it’s now just a matter of staying true to the flight plan.