Valour Consultancy Predicts Aviation Digitization Will Bring 2022 Growth Opportunities


It’s been another unpredictable year for the aviation industry. COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on global travel with both government and governing bodies making decisions that continue to impact a return to normal. With the pandemic creating a permanent impact on the industry, airports and airlines continue to seek innovative ways to redefine the future of air travel and passenger experience.  

The Connected Aviation Today editorial team recently sat down with Craig Foster, senior analyst at Valour Consultancy, to learn more about industry trends and shifts that he saw in 2021 and where he expects to see new growth opportunities in 2022. He offered his perspective on digitization and how in-flight connectivity (IFC), in-flight entertainment (IFE), and connected aviation services could open doors to new growth opportunities in the coming year.

Here is what he shared with us:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: What were some of the disruptions faced by the industry in 2021?

Craig Foster: Unpredictable decisions by authorities continue to keep the airline industry from returning to normal. In the U.K., for example, the transport secretary recently announced the requirement of pre-departure COVID tests for all international arrivals after previously claiming such a move would be far too drastic. These uncertainties continue to necessitate providing passengers with options for flexibility.

CAT Editors: Have these disruptions led to any changes in aircraft design?

Foster: Airlines began to invest more heavily in long-haul narrow-body aircraft, which bring cost-effective solutions to respond to reduced demand, while still offering transatlantic range and opportunities for expanded routes. Many prospective operators have already signed up to place orders for nearly 500 units of the A321XLR aircraft – United Airlines is the largest customer to date, ordering 120 units.

In 2022, there will have to be some consideration as to what cabin layouts are suitable for the current passenger demand profile. Will the continued reductions in business travel lead to smaller business-class cabins? At the same time, an increased interest in seats with more privacy has taken shape in business aviation through the pandemic. Airlines may see an increased demand for premium-leisure cabins, or business-class seats more suited to those travelling in couples or groups.

CAT Editors: As the pandemic pushed many industries to shift to digital services, what has this looked like for the aviation industry?

Foster: In the cabin, airlines continue to seek solutions that minimize passenger-crew interactions and facilitate contactless order fulfilment. Many airlines see potential in expanding IFEC to include open platforms with digital alternatives to traditionally manual cabin features, such as food and beverage ordering.

In the airports, there will be a continued push toward investing in biometrically enabled technology to reinforce passenger safety and security. Airports are also seeking other ways to raise new ancillary revenue streams by putting mobile at the heart of providing more contactless services, while creating new opportunities to upsell throughout the journey. At LAX, for example, passengers can now use their phones to order and pay for food and beverages which are then delivered to them at their gate.

CAT Editors: Moving into 2022, where do you think airlines will see the most opportunities for growth?

Foster: Given the huge amount of uncertainty which has reigned over the aviation industry, it might be a surprise to learn that close to 30 new airlines have launched in 2021, with a number of others planning to launch in 2022.

Many new airlines have seen an opportunity to grab significantly discounted aircraft and newly available space at once-crowded airports. What is important is that these new airlines are starting as lean, efficient organizations that are willing and able to embrace digitization from the outset. They are unencumbered by departmental silos and the different levels of influence and bureaucracy that have historically slowed the introduction of new technologies and processes in the aviation industry.

Existing airlines too can emerge from the pandemic in a more streamlined and organized manner. Many have used the downtime provided by the pandemic as an opportunity to reposition, refresh, and restructure themselves. The financial aid received by airlines this year can also further the move towards digitization that will ultimately contribute to overall efforts to balance the books.


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