Air travelers’ confidence has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show dramatic drops in passengers’ desire to fly, even after new infection levels fell into single digits. In China, for instance, demand for domestic flights increased at first, but quickly plateaued at just over 40% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Meanwhile in Australia, domestic demand hovered at around 10% of pre-pandemic levels even as new infections neared zero. For the industry to recover, airlines need to make sure passengers and staff feel safe. Visibility, communication, and preparedness are essential tools to build their confidence.
Be seen to be safe
Safety measures that passengers experience first-hand have an immediate confidence building effect. Visible sanitizing, screening and face masks, for instance, all help to increase passengers’ feelings of safety when thinking about traveling after COVID-19, according to an IATA survey. Harnessing digital capabilities to shift to a “touchless travel” experience will boost that confidence further. As the industry recovers, the World Economic Forum predicts airlines will use automated processes like biometric identity verification, contactless scanning and voice commands to minimize the need for staff or passengers to touch travel documents and surfaces during check-in and boarding. As well as reassuring passengers and staff, these technologies have the added benefit of helping to create a seamless travel experience.
Prepare for future in-flight catering
Catering has a huge part to play in making sure passengers feel safe and comfortable during the flight. Pre-packaged meals, simplified food preparation procedures and the removal of cold meals and edible ice cubes from the menu are among the recommendations of industry bodies including IATA and the Civil Aviation Authority of China. In response, catering suppliers are coming up with innovative in-flight meal kits complete with compostable or biodegradable packaging to minimize waste.
Zoning in the cabin, with each member of the cabin crew serving a specific group of passengers, is helping airlines serve travelers safely and minimize movement around the plane. But as self-service and touchless experiences continue to shape the air travel experience, using robotics and automation to handle many in-flight catering tasks will likely bring new levels of convenience and comfort for travelers while ensuring the safety of passengers and crew.
Communicate to build confidence
Communication is a crucial tool to reassure passengers and employees that robust procedures are in place to keep them safe. After listening to travelers’ concerns, for instance, United Airlines announced a suite of enhanced safety protocols including the option for passengers to take a different flight if the one they booked is over 70% full. Knowing about the less obvious safety measures – such as using filters that ensure the air in the cabin meets the standards set for hospital operating theaters – will also boost confidence.
By using a digital simulation of the cabin (a “virtual twin”) to create high-rendering videos that show these safety initiatives at work, airlines can bring them to life in a way that is easy to understand. Incorporating the video into staff and pre-flight information for passengers will make sure everyone onboard has up-to-date knowledge about how to protect themselves and others – bringing home the message that their safety is at the heart of each journey.
Discover how Dassault Systèmes can help airlines to boost the confidence of passengers and stakeholders: https://discover.3ds.com/improving-biosecurity-measures-in-air-transport-industry.
Watch this simulation of airplane airflow:
This post by Aurélie Germain originally appeared in The 3D Perspectives Blog.