How the aviation industry is preparing to serve tomorrow’s travelers

aviationHow is the airline and aviation industry preparing to serve travelers and prepare for the opportunities and challenges that might lie ahead? By both looking back and looking forward.

That’s exactly what a group of approximately 500 executives from the aviation and space industries met to discuss in Washington D.C., last week, during the US Chamber of Commerce 15th Annual Aviation Summit. The conference agenda was packed, highlighting issues from next-generation supersonic travel to airport operations, but all came together around one overarching theme: the ‘Fascination of Flight’.

Amadeus has been a very active US Chamber of Commerce participant and a Board of Directors member since 2010.  The Aviation Summit event is especially important for Amadeus in North America because it brings together the region’s major thought-leaders from across the industry, presenting a unique opportunity to discuss current challenges and future opportunities.

There was a broad spectrum of topics and trends covered during the Summit, but here are four that might be poised to impact the future of aviation and air travel:

Driving airline differentiation

Although massive consolidation between 2001 – 2013 left the four major carriers (American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta and Southwest) representing 80 percent of U.S. passenger traffic, other airlines in the region are finding innovative ways to differentiate themselves and drive loyalty. For example, during the event, JetBlue‘s CEO, Robin Hayes, pointed to the introduction of their on-board high speed Internet service, which allows all passengers to stream movies, watch 100 channels of live TV, listen to music or stay connected with their friends and family on the ground, all for free.

Serving socially connected travelers

Airlines need to turn more of their attention to the increasing number of always-connected travelers, as Julia Sattel from Amadeus highlighted in the event’s “Connected Airline” panel.  These so-called “Social Capital Seekers” are a powerful traveler group who can exert incredible influence over their online peers. Airlines need to have them on their side, which means creating a positive customer experience that they’ll want to share. How do they do this?  Amadeus’ whitepaper, Future Traveller Tribes 2030: Understanding tomorrow’s traveller offers practical strategies on how airlines can better sell, service and communicate with socially astute travelers.

Aligning air traffic control to serve the times

What will it mean for air travel if air traffic control is separated from safety enforcement and managed differently than the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) setup? The view of American Airlines‘ CEO Doug Parker and others is that an independent, not-for-profit organization will provide much needed, long-term financial certainty to invest in technologies and processes that have been around for some time, but never implemented in an environment of continuous short-term funding.  This creates the opportunity to modernize air traffic control and drive greater operational efficiencies.  An example of such technologies and processes includes continuous descent approach (a smooth, constant-angle descent to landing), resulting in less fuel burn and noise pollution, which has to be a good thing for everyone.  The industry seems to be aligning behind a legislature sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer – so watch this space.

Is a supersonic jet age on the horizon?

In the next decade or two, could it really be possible to go anywhere in the world in just six hours? This was a view supported by the NASA panel at the Aviation Summit. President Obama has put a priority on NASA, in partnership with industry, to work on revolutionary technology that will change the shape, design, material and engines of tomorrow’s airplanes. They’ll be a lot faster of course, but will also run on biofuels and emit 75 percent less pollution than they do today, which will inevitably translate into cheaper, faster and more convenient air travel for us all.  The view of the panel is that by 2030 – 2050, we’ll be traveling in quieter, cleaner, supersonic jets to all corners of the world in just a few hours. I can’t wait!

To view a replay of the Aviation Summit’s keynote speakers, please click here.

About the US Chamber of Commerce: The US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) was created in 1912 and is one of America’s largest lobbying groups, representing the interests of 3 million businesses and trade associations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation – a non-profit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – hosts the annual Aviation Summit, bringing together top experts and leaders from all sectors of aviation to discuss critical issues facing the industry.


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