8 Airline Industry Trends That Will Shape 2022
Despite the huge impact of the pandemic and the restrictions that ensued, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to the future of the airline industry.
Driven by new technologies that focus on safety, sustainability, efficiency and a smoother travel experience, let’s take a look at the emerging trends set to transform the airline industry in 2022 and beyond.
Top 8 Airline Trends for 2022
The biometric boom
According to IATA's passenger survey, 73% of passengers are willing to share biometric data to improve the travel experience. In 2019, this number was 46%, showing just how much the public perception of this technology has shifted over the last few years.
What’s behind this change of mind? Well, for a start, there’s a willingness to compromise on sharing personal data if it leads to a safer environment. Also, following the pandemic, travellers value a stress-free, efficient travel experience more than ever. And biometric technology can certainly deliver that.
In the States, United Airlines trialled a SITA-powered face recognition system, enabling customers to sync their ID documents with their facial biometric. This meant travellers could check in and board simply through facial scanning – not a boarding pass in sight.
Of course, speed is a major factor in the biometric boom. In early trials, Lufthansa managed to get 350 passengers safely seated on board an Airbus A380 in a mere 20 minutes. In fact, it's estimated that biometrics helps reduce check-in and boarding times by up to 80%.
Then there’s the increased security factor. Biometric systems will replace manual checks, of which human error is a factor – after scanning hundreds upon hundreds of documents, who can blame an agent for making a mistake? A biometric camera performs at an incredibly high level of accuracy for a long period of time. There’s also increased safety as, by its very nature, biometric technology is entirely touchless.
Still, while passengers are coming round to the idea, privacy concerns remain. Airlines will need to further gain the trust of their customers if these concerns are to be eased; although, for travellers, the promise of safer travel might just seal the deal.
Bag-free air travel
Let’s talk baggage. One of the key reasons travellers feel weighed down when they travel – quite literally – is the luggage problem. If we’re to ever arrive at the truly seamless, relaxing traveller experience, something’s going to have to give.
Firstly, for self-connecting passengers, collecting and re-checking luggage at their layover airport is a big pain point. Airsiders solves this issue by offering automated baggage check-thru, even when an interline or alliance agreement doesn't exist between flight handlers.
Re-checking and re-collecting luggage may be an issue specific to self-connecting passengers, but actually carrying the luggage affects every traveller. Luckily, there are some big innovators out there keen on lightening the load. While it’s not yet part of a ‘regular’ airline service, there are already several companies tackling the inconvenience of processing luggage.
AirPortr is one such company driving the shift towards contactless, bag-free air travel. Through AirPortr, the traveller’s luggage is weighed and collected from their door, the boarding pass is printed and delivered, then the baggage is checked in at the airport and even loaded onto the plane. At the other end, AirPortr delivers the luggage directly to the traveller’s destination. All this is supplemented by insurance, live tracking and CCTV, for added peace of mind.
On a large scale, this shift points to vast Amazon-style depots where baggage is handled before being loaded onto your flight. Still, there’s a big environmental question hanging over this kind of system, with an increase in pollution from such a large scale pickup/delivery service a major factor. If companies like Dubz and AirPortr are to genuinely change the baggage handling game, they’ll need to deliver efficiency in an ecological way.
A renewed focus on sustainability
Having taken a backseat behind health as the most important consideration for the aviation industry, sustainability will come to the fore once more. This year's SITA report shows that sustainability has moved higher on airline CIOs’ agendas – 56% have already implemented new technologies to improve sustainability, while a third (32%) plan to do so by 2024. This means that by 2024, if all goes according to plan, 9 out of 10 airlines will have set up technologies to boost sustainability.
At last year’s IATA meeting, the air transport industry pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s a huge target and really underlines aviation’s commitment to a green future. If it’s to be met, critical medium-term solutions, as well as robust long-term solutions, will need to be implemented.
One of the key drivers of these solutions is the Aviation Climate Taskforce (ACT). A collaboration of Virgin Atlantic, Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, ACT aims to discover and accelerate breakthrough technologies to decarbonise aviation. Emerging innovations include synthetic fuel, direct air capture (DAC) and new zero-emissions energy sources such as electric and hydrogen.
DAC, in particular, is being touted as a major breakthrough. United Airlines certainly sees it as having a potentially groundbreaking impact, having become a partner in a project to build the world's first commercial DAC facility, where 1 million tons of CO₂ will be sucked from the atmosphere every year.
If the zero-emissions target is to be met and our future is to be green, these kinds of innovations will be crucial.
IATA’s 2021 survey found that 55% of travellers believe boarding queues have to improve. Now, after successful implementation at sporting events, theme parks, hospitals and government agencies around the world, virtual queueing systems are set to deliver that improvement, with airlines queuing up to take advantage of this emerging trend.
Last year, British Airways trialled a virtual queuing system by tech company Qmatic at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Customers received an online ticket and could monitor their place in the queue via their smartphone. With customers able to pre-book their slot remotely in advance, waiting times and congestion were dramatically reduced.
Meanwhile, airlines including Delta and Qantas were part of a trial at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Implemented by Copenhagen Optimization, the trial system, SEA Spot Saver, was a huge success that saved time for 90% of customers. As a result, SEA Spot Saver is now a permanent feature at the airport.
If done correctly, virtual queueing has the potential to make a huge impact on the passenger experience. From check-in desks to boarding lines, travellers will see waiting times drop dramatically. Of course, this leads to more downtime – a chance to relax or shop.
At a time when large queueing is not just an inconvenience but a health and safety issue, virtual queueing seems a safe bet for the airline industry. As the technology improves and any early teething problems are addressed, expect to see virtual queueing systems rolled out around the world.
In the age of the subscription model, with Netflix, Spotify and the like totally transforming the way we consume entertainment, it makes sense that the travel industry should explore how it could follow suit. In February, Alaska Airlines launched a ‘Flight Pass’ subscription program, using Caravelo’s innovative service, which offers subscription and revenue optimisation solutions for the airline and travel industry.
Airlines like Alaska Airlines are looking to convert travellers into loyal ‘subscribers’, bolstering ancillary sales and including passengers in their optimisation strategy. For frequent flyers, it offers far more flexibility and big cost reductions, while airlines reap the rewards of incremental revenue and guaranteed income. This is good news for investors too, who can predict a certain amount of income for flight operators.
The loyalty angle is certainly a big one. Having a permanent open channel of communication with their subscribers enables airlines to upsell and cross sell, while solidifying that crucial brand relationship.
As travel habits evolve, passengers are increasingly keen to take more control over their journeys. This points to the emergence of self-connected travel – an increasingly popular way of doing things. But booking two or more connecting flights independently from one another, with airlines that don’t have interlining agreements in place, has plenty of potential pitfalls for travellers in the current system.
That’s why airlines are starting to look towards virtual interlining (VI) solutions to better serve their customer base. Companies like Airsiders give airlines the ability to create a ‘virtual network’, identifying viable routes by accurately calculating dynamic MCTs (minimum connection time or door-to-gate transfer time) using advanced patent-pending technology. Amongst the factors taken into account are not only static data points like baggage MCTs, visa requirements and health regulations, but also real-time updates on shuttle bus availability and flight disruption information. Software and processes, too, enable luggage to be automatically checked through to the final destination even when an interlining or alliance agreement doesn't exist.
What’s more, VI requires minimal technical input from flight carriers and is fully scalable – a major asset for airlines with big growth potential.
Passenger preparation and assistance
Airlines are beginning to go the extra mile when it comes to making sure passengers feel prepared for their journey. Airsiders is offering innovative services that act as a virtual assistant in the palm of your hand. Our door-to-gate solution, for instance, is used by airlines to provide passengers with personalised wayfinding as well as precise gate-to-gate connection times and transfer risk based on live data, both before and after booking a flight. Standardised airport maps and a unique wayfinding solution, which integrates the passenger’s flight itinerary as well as real-time queue times at all the possible checkpoints (e.g. passport, security), automatically takes travellers to the quickest route. Additional information such as the latest retail offers and opening times help make the most of airport downtime, too. With all of this information available in one place, passengers can rely on a single solution to manage their entire journey.
Giving travellers centralised control yet, at the same time, more personalised guidance and security, will be key to the passenger experience over the coming years. If airlines are to help shape this experience, while reaping the benefits of increased customer loyalty and conversions, they will need to get connected to passenger preparation.
Essentially an all-encompassing platform that allows users to accomplish several different things within one central platform, superapps will be a big theme for airlines and other aviation enterprises over the next decade. In fact, they are already beginning to influence the industry.
AirAsia recently unveiled its own superapp, integrating more services up and down the value chain and offering flights of their competitors to capture a larger portion of the market. The app is based around three core pillars: media – in the form of chat and TV entertainment; commerce – in the form of a duty-free shopping and food delivery service; and financial products – in the form of AirAsia Money, which includes a mobile wallet, currency exchange and a loyalty platform. This one-stop travel and lifestyle e-commerce app allows you to book tickets (not just with AirAsia, but with hundreds of other airlines too), get deals on hotel stays, activity packages and transportation as well as buying food, health and beauty products.
The ability to cater for all these various consumer needs within one ecosystem is set to break new ground for airlines, both in terms of revenue diversification and being able to offer a new kind of travel experience for passengers.
As the after-effects of the pandemic on aviation gradually tail off, the travel industry has a lot to look forward to.
The most innovative airline managers will be the ones who harness the trends and technologies above, to stand out in a crowded market and play their part in creating a new golden age of travel – for passengers and airlines alike – with safety, security, efficiency, flexibility and sustainability at the centre of a push towards a brighter future in our skies.
Airsiders is already helping airlines the world over to reshape the travel experience. To discover how we can help your team today, book a demo now.Back to all articles