Many industries are facing new challenges amid a worker shortage, changing economic conditions, rising fuel costs, and the need for sustainability. Perhaps there is no greater place for this than the aviation and airline industry.
These industries have also been grappling to meet increased customer demand with the emergence of innovation. This is a recent conversation I had Julie Shainock, global managing director for travel, transport logistics, and hospitality, Microsoft. Let’s take a moment to explore a few of the hurdles and opportunities that this industry faces. (I would also be remiss if we did not note the Israel-Hamas war might alter the aviation recovery we have been witnessing on tourism.)
Rising Costs: Fuel costs have increased 30% since 2021, due to global passenger demand and geopolitical tensions. The difference now is airlines today are looking for new ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions; more efficient aircraft; alternative fuel sources; optimizing new routes and operations, says Shainock.
Sustainability: The aviation industry is under growing pressure to reduce its environmental impact and contribute to the global efforts to combat climate change. As Shainock notes, “The industry accounts for about 2% of the global carbon dioxide emissions and 12% of transport-related emissions. We have the ambition from the Intl. Air Transport Assn., to achieve net zero by 2050.”
To achieve these goals, the industry must adopt more sustainable practices such as using renewable energy sources, carbon offsetting schemes, electric or hybrid aircraft, and alternative fuel sources, just to name a few.
Worker Shortage: When you look at the entire capacity workforce, the aviation industry is really experiencing a surge in demand, and you haven’t seen those workers come back. Some have come back, but the airlines are facing challenges in meeting increased new orders of aircrafts, maintaining their existing fleets, recruiting training of qualified pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers, ground crew, and other personnel.
“The industry needs to invest in technology, automation, digitalization, and innovation to enhance its productivity and efficiency,” says Shainock.
At the World Aviation Festival that took place at the end of September, AI (artificial intelligence) was talked about everywhere. Hot tech topics included gen AI, data science, biometrics, blockchain, and digital health passports, just to name a few. The technology can help airlines improve their efficiency, their productivity, customer experience, and innovation.
Advances in aviation technology mean planes have become more fuel efficient, and airlines can provide greater customer-friendly offerings with a la carte services and better pricing.
“An airline of today is not what an airline was four years ago or five years ago,” says Shainock. “You are starting to see they are really embracing all the technologies they can to drive efficiencies throughout their operational processes, their passenger processes, etc.”
All in all, we know data is the new oil, giving critical new insights to businesses to make better decisions, ultimately improving the customer and worker experience. The end result is new capabilities for both the airlines and the travelers, which at the end of the day is the main objective of new innovation, isn’t it?
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