Less than 9 or 10 weeks ago, this is a sight no-one could have possibly imagined – replicated at airports and airfields the world over.

The silver birds of many airlines, so used to powering into the skies, dormantly parked waiting for this crisis to be consigned to the history books.

As well as the parked aircraft, there’s the even more traumatic human factor with crews and other staff furloughed in best cases – or at the other end of the scale, losing their jobs to this unforeseen and unprecedented crisis. This isn’t a replay of 9/11 – this is an industry-wide crisis on a completely different and global scale. Aviation has seen nothing like this and there’s going to be a quantum change in the business as we all move forward in the coming weeks and months.

The sheer scale and speed of the fall-out of COVID-19 spreading throughout the globe is jaw dropping – airlines just can’t shrink and protect their costs quick enough given the collapse of air travel demand. It takes time to reduce safely and considerately.

In the middle of last week – USA – less than 280,000 people crossed TSA airport checkpoints. Let’s remember – 25% or more were airport workers and crews, rendering that statistic ever grimmer. On the same day in 2019 – 2.15 million crossed those very same security access points – that’s over 87% less.

As the aviation industry moves out of this global crisis, it’s clear the world isn’t going to be exactly the same. COVID-19 has touched every single human on this planet in one way or another.

We might see enforced social distancing at airports for a long time; perhaps the introduction of COVID-19 “passports” – similar to the chips in our pets; new virtual connectivity for business passengers who are now more willing to use technology rather than handshakes to complete contracts.

This is where technology alchemists like FrontM come in – we’re establishing a post-COVID-19 technology ecosystem to ensure future travellers have the assurance and reassurance we know will be needed in the coming months; connecting travellers, airlines and airports way beyond the passenger experience that was so recently avant garde in boardrooms the world over. Re-establishing trust and blending that with experiences encapsulated in a real-time personalised and resiliently connected data flow will be essential.

The time is now right to re-consider and plan for Airline 2.0 as we move beyond the personal, health and economic trauma the COVID era has bestowed upon us all.

We all now need to collaborate and deliver what the industry has been crying out for – it’s nearly 20 years since I first heard that phrase: ” passenger digital engagement”.

At FrontM, our team of digital alchemists blend perfectly physical experiences, digital overlays – and then going on to seamlessly deliver aviation nirvana – a strong, sticky and quantifiable connection between airline brand and consumer. In the post COVID-19 era, rebuilding of emotional trust between all the parties in the travel ecosystem is paramount.

When the silver birds once again take to the skies, connecting our global village with their magnificent engineering and power, FrontM will be right there – helping passengers on their way, connecting brands and their travellers in a new world – where reassurance AND compelling digital passenger experiences exist side-by-side.

Ian Carruthers

Author Ian Carruthers

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