April 18, 2022 | By JETechnology Staff
The aviation industry has adapted drastically in the last couple of years. Even as governments worldwide lift travel restrictions, these changes will continue. Traveler behavior has shifted in the face of the pandemic, and they now expect a different travel experience than they had before 2020. Moving forward into 2022 and beyond, the air transport industry will need to respond to growing trends in digitization, data management and sustainability.
Airport and Airline Industry Trends in 2022
The central threads running through all airport and airline industry trends in 2022 are adaptability and efficiency. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), governments have provided over $240 billion in total aid to airlines. As travel resumes, the aviation industry must increase efficiency to cut costs while boosting revenue. In light of that, the industry is seeing rising adoption of technologies. Here are seven — largely tech-driven — airport and airline industry trends we see unfolding in 2022:
1. Returning Growth
Because of the vaccines, governments are lifting international travel restrictions and customers feel more comfortable traveling once again. While we’ve certainly all learned that nothing in the face of the pandemic is linear, experts do predict travel will gradually increase in 2022.
2. Creating a Touchless Customer Experience
One of the most impactful ways the pandemic affected our daily lives is through the push for touchless experiences. As we move into 2022, this push will only continue.
Integrating digital processes to minimize physical interactions between passengers and airline staff improves passenger safety and sanitization while allowing airports and airlines to enhance their efficiency and better handle cargo operations. Ways airports and airlines can create a more holistic touchless experience include:
- Automated check-in
- Biometric facial recognition
- Digitized bag-tracking
- Electronic boarding information
3. Continuing Sanitation Protocols
While integrating more touchless processes improves passenger safety, travelers will still expect airports and airlines to continue following stringent sanitation protocols, including:
- Cleaning high-traffic touchpoints
- Fogging planes
- Using High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filters
- Wearing masks and other personal protective equipment
4. Improving Cross-Industry Data Management
As technology continues developing and the aviation industry faces a pressing need to improve efficiency, more airports and airlines will likely adopt artificial intelligence and high-tech data management solutions. Namely, stakeholders across the sector can implement technology to better communicate regarding potential disruptions and shifting flight schedules. For example:
- Predicting future disruptions: When air traffic control, airlines, pilots and airports all streamline their data into one holistic solution, machine learning algorithms can predict future disruptions. These predictions will improve the customer experience by informing them ahead of time of potential flight delays, and it allows all stakeholders to adjust their processes and adapt accordingly.
- Embarking on better flight paths: Receiving real-time weather data empowers pilots to make more informed decisions about their flight paths so they can increase their efficiency and passenger safety.
- Understanding flight operation patterns: While stakeholders across the industry communicate about late arrivals and departures, updating their systems to share the foundational data enables machine learning algorithms to spot patterns. When airports and airlines receive this information, they can improve operational efficiency.
5. Increasing Use of Self-Driving Vehicles
More airports are using self-driving vehicles to streamline several diverse operations, including:
- Aircraft taxiing
- Snow removal
- Baggage handling
6. Continuing to See Shifts in Travel Habits
The air transport landscape has changed drastically in the last couple of years. While travel will gradually pick back up again in 2022, we’ll continue to see a shift in passenger habits in:
- Business travel: Business travel will increase by 38% year-over-year in 2022 but won’t return to its 2019 numbers until 2024.
- Workcations: Many remote employees travel and take their work with them. These trips aren’t strictly for business, but employees continue working throughout — hence the fusion of “work” and “vacation.”
7. Developing Better Customer-Facing Apps
Many airlines and airports already provide apps for their customers, and this trend will only gain momentum as we move into 2022. With technological developments and shifting customer expectations, airlines and airports will benefit from improving their apps to include more streamlined, holistic information for travelers. Use the app as a home for everything the traveler might need, either in-flight or throughout the airport.
Airline Industry Trends in 2022
While we see many trends that will affect airlines and airports alike, we also see notable trends specific to airlines, including:
- Providing increased flexibility: Shifting travelers’ habits — primarily the increase in last-minute bookings — and the uncertainty of international travel in the foreseeable future place an onus on airlines to provide greater flexibility for passengers. Many airlines have eliminated change and cancellation fees for many types of fares.
- Integrating predictive maintenance: Predictive maintenance technologies use flight data to alert aircraft operators of potential maintenance needs. Using this technology can help catch problems pre-emptively, improving safety and operational efficiency.
- Improving aircraft sustainability: Following IATA members’ pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, sustainability will become a critical focus for global airlines. The most significant contributions to these net-zero efforts will come from using sustainable aviation fuel, offsetting carbon emissions and employing carbon capture technologies.
- Increasing share of narrow-body aircraft: The percentage of narrow-body aircraft will increase in the coming years. The rapidly changing passenger numbers and uncertainty of the pandemic have emphasized the need for risk management among airlines. While wide-body aircraft can provide larger profit margins when the business is good, they also create more substantial risk in lower-demand times. Narrow-body aircraft offer a middle ground that’s much less risky for airlines as they work to improve their efficiency and rebound their profits post-pandemic.
- Growing market for low-cost carriers: Low-cost carriers currently hold 30% of the market share, and they’re projected to continue growing, reaching $254 billion in size over the next five years.
Airport Industry Trends in 2022
Moving into 2022, we also see a few trends that will primarily affect airports, such as:
- Improving collaboration: As airports have various departments to juggle, improving efficiency will require enhanced collaboration. Airports can implement technology that enhances communication and automation. Technology such as sensors and schedule reporting can also provide insights into current performance, allowing management to see areas for improvement.
- Using data to improve airport operations: On a similar note, machine learning technologies can analyze customer data. For instance, integrated technology throughout the airport can collect data on when passengers check in, the stores and restaurants they visit, the products they purchase and more. Machine learning algorithms can then spot patterns that highlight areas in which airports can improve the customer experience or deliver more of what travelers want.
- Focusing on sustainability: As with airlines, airports will need to respond to an increased focus on sustainability. For example, airports might implement features such as natural light, more thorough recycling and more paperless processes.
- Incorporating air filtration systems: An essential aspect of improving customer health and safety is integrating more robust air filtration systems throughout the airport. Data-driven technology can provide solutions that auto-adjust based on the airport’s current internal atmosphere.
Is the Airline Industry Growing?
As we move into 2022, we see many optimistic patterns for the airline industry. While the industry is still rebounding from the pandemic, the aviation market should experience a compound annual growth rate of 5% through 2027.
Within this overall growth, we see improvement in several areas, including:
- Passenger numbers: In 2021, passenger numbers reached 2.3 billion, and the IATA predicts the 2022 numbers will reach 3.4 billion, a 51% year-over-year increase. Further, the IATA predicts passenger numbers will fully recover — and exceed 2019 numbers — by 2024.
- Revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs): The IATA predicts RPKs will rebound to 61% in 2022.
- Financial performance: As the air travel industry recovers, airlines should also make gains financially, closing the profitability gap. Globally, industry net losses should shrink from $52 billion in 2021 to $12 billion in 2022. The IATA predicts the North American region will turn to profitability in 2022.
- Air cargo: The numbers for air cargo are especially optimistic, as global trade remains strong. Cargo volumes are currently surpassing 2019 levels, and the IATA expects them to continue to increase.
- Aircraft numbers: Airlines should receive more aircraft than in 2019, though airlines might cancel or postpone some deliveries. Even still, the production and delivery rates of many major commercial manufacturers improved in 2021 and should continue steadily through 2027.
- Employment: As airlines rebound from the pandemic and more passengers opt to travel, airlines will also need to increase their staff. The IATA projects an industry-wide employment increase of 11%.
However, while the industry is growing, regional differences remain apparent. Vaccination rates and government response to the pandemic led to staggered recovery across regional markets. For example, the North American region should return to profitability first, while the intra-European and Asia-Pacific markets should decrease their net losses in 2022. The IATA projects additional losses for the Middle Eastern and African markets in 2022.
Even still, overall global travel should continue to recoup, reaching 61% of 2019 levels in 2022.
What Is the Future of Airports?
In the face of recovery growth and these 2022 trends, the future of airports will become increasingly digitized with streamlined operations. Ways we might see this come to fruition include:
- Experiential services: Nearly 40% of healthy airport revenues come from non-aeronautical operations, according to the Airports Council International (ACI). As airports move into the future, they will need to improve the holistic customer experience. For instance, they can provide experiential services — restaurants, shopping and even nature scenes — that exceed customer expectations. The future of airports will likely see more revolutionary entertainment and exceptional services provided within the airport buildings.
- Streamlined technology: Technological advancements will further streamline this process, making room for more of these non-aeronautical developments. For instance, streamlined check-in and security processes will take up less space in the airport. Airports can integrate bag-tracking software with a logistics partnership so baggage drop-off and baggage claim no longer have to occur inside the airport. Instead, customers can “drop off” their bags before heading to the airport and receive them directly at their destination.
- Customer service technology: Technology and apps also improve the customer experience and provide them with necessary information — and more personalized experiences within the airport. Artificial intelligence and data synchronization can allow for cross-airport personalization. For instance, shopping or restaurant kiosks might sync with customer data from their phone app. Artificial intelligence assistants can wander airport buildings to provide personalized customer service throughout.
- Parking developments: Parking-related operations can generate 25% of some airports’ non-aeronautical revenues. However, changes in public transportation and an increased push for environmentally friendly transit might diminish airport parking.
As we move into the future, airports will evolve rapidly. Along with the rest of the aviation industry, they’ve already shown they can adapt swiftly to changing demands. Even when pandemic-related changes level out, the airports of the future will continue evolving, looking more advanced — and different — than they do today.
What Is the Future of the Airline Industry?
The near future of the airline industry involves a central focus on growth and rebounding from the pandemic. In the more distant future, the airline industry should see developments in aircraft types and passenger capacity. More immediate changes include:
- Gradual traffic rebound: McKinsey & Company predicts air traffic will likely return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
- Larger share of leisure traffic: As traffic increases, business traffic will rebound slower than leisure travel. Therefore, airlines will likely need to alter their pricing structures to suit price-conscious leisure travelers and adjust their cab layouts to accommodate more of these travelers over business class.
- Higher ticket prices: McKinsey predicts a 3% increase in ticket prices as airlines pay back government aid.
- Performance disparities: As the pandemic has required airlines to adapt rapidly, a divide has formed between airlines that met the changing needs and those that didn’t. Further, increased debt has made efficiency all the more critical. Successful technological adoption will further divide airports that improved their performance accordingly and those that didn’t.
However, the airline industry faces exciting developments in the distant future. Longer-term changes include:
- More efficient flight capacity: The airline industry’s commitment to achieving zero net emissions by 2050 has prompted increased attention toward hydrogen-powered planes, with many groups developing new aircraft. Commercial hydrogen-powered planes might become a reality by 2030. Additionally, airlines can continually look for ways to seat more passengers in the same amount of space, leading to more efficient cabin designs.
- Return of supersonic flight: United Airlines has ordered supersonic jets, which could prompt the return of supersonic air travel to the commercial airline industry.
All in all, the airline industry’s future will likely look more tech-driven — as with airports — with an emphasis placed on sustainability and efficiency. The airlines that can continue evolving will see the most pronounced success.
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