The future of Air Travel in a new age of technology

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The aviation industry is not untouched from the effects of the digital wave, which has created a ripple effect across industries and organizations. However, it is not among the pioneers of the digital revolution. Instead, it is simply reacting to the new wave of technology and following the trends to stay abreast with the demands and expectations of the modern passengers.

In the past few years, low-cost carriers have become the preferred choice for passengers. The travelers now expect a completely personalized experience, right from the booking stage till after they have completed their journey. The aviation industry can leverage Sentiment Analysis to determine their customers’ needs and then formulate their customer strategy accordingly.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has determined the technologies and factors that will define how aviation industry will shape up in its recent report on “Future of the Airline Industry 2035.” The report identified cybersecurity, robotics and automation, 3D printing, new manufacturing techniques, virtual reality, augmented reality, IoT, big data, alternative fuels and energy sources, new aircraft designs, alternative modes of rapid transit, and geospatial technology to be prominent in the future of the aviation sector.

There are five major drivers of the changing aviation industry – Society, Environment, Politics, Economy, and Technology. While the societal, environmental, political, and economical factors are somewhat impossible to control, technology is becoming the prime concern for the aviation industry. With futuristic, alternate travel modes such as Hyperloop, with the growing prominence of the highly sophisticated AR/VR technology, the aviation industry is in a rather dynamic state. Although, air travel is still the preferred mode for long-distance journeys, the tables might turn on the sector if it fails to adapt and align with the latest technologies.

Let us try to get a picture of how the aviation sector will look like in the coming years:

1. Artificial Intelligence:

A new market study predicted a CAGR of 46.4% for AI in aviation market by 2023. AI is being used to deliver a personalized traveling experience to the passengers in order to generate the maximum customer satisfaction. Artificial intelligence is personalizing, optimizing and up scaling the digital interactions between airlines and passengers. AI and ML applied on the social sentiment of the passengers is helping airline industry to curate their services as per the needs of the passengers.

2. Big Data

The shift towards democratization of data is empowering the sector to take strategic decisions backed by facts. Coupled with AI and ML, big data is helping the industry to predict and forecast consumer behavior in order to fine tune their strategy. As data is gaining the reputation of the most valuable asset in the digital age, it is only wise to proactively utilize data mining techniques for developing a robust plan that has high probabilities of succeeding.

3. Automation

As machines are becoming smarter with the latest advancements in technology, pilotless planes can soon become a reality. Hybrid RPA, integrated with the cognition of AI, can make it feasible for an aircraft to complete a journey without manual intervention. Even today, planes complete the major part of the flight on the auto-pilot mode, with manual pilots taking over control only during the time of takeoff and landing. However, given the uncertainties and risks involved during a flight, it is highly unlikely that a flight, in the future, will not have any manual pilots on board. The unpredictable nature of machines makes them unreliable during an emergency, thus, requiring a human pilot to man the plane and complete the flight safely.

4. Workforce and skills

Although we are moving towards the future of advanced planes and automated flights, it is not possible to successfully realize the vision without bridging the existing skill gap in the present workforce. From pilots, employees, and engineers to air-traffic controllers and safety inspectors, everyone needs to upskill their capabilities in order to stay relevant and competent in the upcoming digital future of aviation. There will be a lot of legal and moral changes involved to oversee the transition from manual to automation. With the prevalence of automation, some jobs in the sector will be taken over but new positions for the manual resources will be created as well.

5. Biometrics

Biometric technologies such as facial recognition, fingerprint authentication, and retinal scanning will become the default way of verification. With the integration of biometric systems for border control, airport check-ins, on-boarding, migration formalities, the entire verification process will soon become paperless. This will further extend to baggage claim process, allowing passengers to keep real-time track of their luggage.

6. In-flight connectivity

The world is increasingly getting interconnected and connectivity is becoming a business necessity. The airline passengers will expect even in-flight connectivity in the coming days, getting rid of the need to disconnect phones in the air. After the free Wi-Fi services across airports, now airlines are also starting to offer the provision inside the flight. Recently, Delta airlines took the initiative to provide Wi-Fi in all its domestic and international flights to let passengers experience an entertaining flight journey.

In Conclusion

Although the technologies are advancing and the industry is stepping forward to adopt them in the most optimal way, everything can fall flat without effective implementation. In order to ensure a successful adoption and implementation, extensive and meticulous testing is critical. As Delta Airlines’ Director of Onboard Product, Ekrem Dimbiloglu says about effectuating on-board connectivity, “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right – this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.”

The greater sprawl of technology also brings along newer threats in the scope of cybersecurity and user privacy. To avoid getting attacked by such threats and vulnerabilities, it is essential that the industry players take a proactive approach and integrate a robust testing plan within their plan for future.

Cigniti’s Airline TCoE is backed by an experienced staff having deep-domain expertise in managing several advanced airline IT solutions such as new generation Airlines Passenger solutions, Airlines Revenue Accounting, Airlines booking, ecommerce website, and Mobile Apps for different platforms, and more. Testing process and phases vary by development methodologies. Cigniti has a process that can be customized as per the requirements, irrespective of the methodology being used.

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