The aviation industry has been severely impact by the Covid-19 pandemic, with airlines experiencing overwhelming disruption and a shocking downturn. In 2021, the industry dealt with the fallout of Covid-19 through the implementation of a number of changes.

A sharp decline in passengers choosing air travel led to a revaluation of safety measures and reassurance for passengers. Due to the implementation of these measures, the aviation industry was has seen a gradual recovery as well as the return of passenger confidence. Overall, further progress is expected in 2022 with the introduction of new technologies to allow for these adjustments.

We hear from industry experts about expectations for passenger behaviour, cleaning regimes, health and safety trends, new technologies, and sustainability trends for airlines in 2022.

Bhanu Choudhrie, founder of Alpha Aviation Group

According to the latest IATA numbers, global airlines have projected a considerable reduction in industry losses in 2022. The numbers expect international travel to rise steadily and reach almost half of 2019 levels.

The pandemic has put a sharp focus on health and safety, and in turn on cleaning regimes across several facets of the aviation sector. Widespread adoption of hygiene enhancement and germ-killing solutions due to the virus will be here to stay.

UV technology for cleaning everything from security trays at airports to cabin surfaces has seen deployment across the globe. I would expect to see more stringent cleaning protocols deployed to sanitise high-use touchpoints, and technologies like aircraft fogging, increased utilisation of High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters, and the continued use of PPE by air crews to continue in 2022.

In a post-pandemic world, digitisation of health records (vaccine passports) and its seamless incorporation in the travel process will be a key factor driving trends in this area. Digitisation of health records and procedures will go a long way in restoring consumer confidence and making key aspects of air travel safer and quicker, with the latter remaining a key factor to the recovery of the aviation and global travel sector.

I would expect the aviation sector to focus on growing automation, increasing digitisation, and the adoption of an agile operating model as key focus areas for 2022. Airlines, airports, and the sector will need to enhance operational efficiency, strategically add resources that boost operational efficiency, and be prepared to adapt to fluctuating demand and passenger numbers.

I believe sustainability will play a crucial role in the development of new technologies, especially in airports. Several airports around the world have begun implementing sustainable measures whether in their construction, using green spaces and increased utilisation of natural light, developing holistic recycling initiatives, energy saving measures, and sustainable printing practices.

Apart from ongoing research in long-lead solutions such as electricity and hydrogen, several airlines have put significant resources focussed on developing sustainable solutions for air travel. I am confident that 2022 will present us with more exciting developments in sustainable fuel technology, the use of climate-friendly materials in aircraft development, and sustainable flying practices.

Sébastien Fabre, CEO of SITA for aircraft

Automation and digitisation are crucial to give passengers the confidence and control back to travel efficiently and reduce processing times to acceptable levels. Biometric technology offers an essential solution to address this issue with airports around the world investing in future-proofing operations.

In addition to automated passenger processing, we need to standardise and digitalise health verification to ensure easier, safer, and more seamless travel in the face of ongoing health concerns.

Blockchain holds immense potential for the air transport industry because of its unique ability to share information instantly, securely, and privately between the dozens of stakeholders across airports, governments, airlines, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The air transport industry spends $50bn a year on aircraft spare parts. Yet, tracking and tracing of these spare parts as they move between airlines, lessors, and OEMs remains largely manual. There is no one single view of how to track hundreds of millions of records of transactions between these entities, exacerbating risk and cost. And if there is any inconsistency between stakeholder systems, the risk of data overlap increases – as does cost.

Airlines face some of the most complex issues related to maintenance, repair, and operations, from a lack of digital records to supply chain difficulties, system inconsistencies, and burdensome costs. Blockchain will be vital to solving these challenges.

For pilots, SITA has developed a proven blockchain-based solution enabling the verification of an electronic personnel license without network connectivity. Allowing offline verification in an efficient and privacy-preserving way, SITA’s contribution supports the International Civil Aviation Organization ‘s adoption of an industry-wide digital standard for the use of EPLs on international flights.

On the passenger side, blockchain could solve many of the efficiency challenges the industry faces today. In 2021 SITA, together with Indicio.tech and the Aruba Health Department, trialled the Aruba Health App, a pilot that makes it easy for visitors to share a trusted traveller credential – based on their health status – privately and securely on their mobile device.

Technology can also provide pilots and dispatchers with real-time access to accurate multi-source weather reports. Today’s solutions can help pilots optimise their flight profiles to maximise fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and improve situational awareness for safer, more comfortable flights.

Regional and domestic airports must prepare for a post-pandemic boom. With domestic air travel in bigger markets such as the United States, India, and China, the first to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, regional airports are set to play an outsized role in the coming years.

While the operational challenges for international hubs are similar, we’ll likely see regional airports experiencing capacity constraints sooner as domestic travel resumes at an accelerated pace. On top of that come greater airline expectations, route volatility, space constraints, staff multi-tasking, and a myriad more.

Ready-to-go cloud-based airport management capabilities to help optimise resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making will be essential for these airports to thread the needle between passenger satisfaction, capacity, and profitability.