April 22, 2024

Aviation bosses outline Covid silver linings

By Bev Fearis, published 9/12/20

The pandemic will help the aviation industry meet its sustainability targets more quickly, according to airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

Speaking at a session on the long-term impact of Covid-19 at this week’s Future Travel Experience Virtual Expo, aviation bosses outlined other positive changes being brought about by the crisis.

Tom Sanderson, Director Product Marketing at Boeing, said although the industry has been hit hard, there was a “slight silver lining” because unrequired aircraft – the most costly and least environmentally-friendly – are being retired and are not expected to return to service.

“The least efficient will be replaced by the next generation aircraft. Within a three- to five-year timeframe we will have the newest deliveries and these will bring 20%-30% improvements in fuel burn and noise reductions,” he said.

“Although we will get there in a really challenging way, the end result will be that the industry will be a lot more sustainable.”

Linda Celestino, Vice President Guest Service for Etihad, said the pause in operations earlier this year had prompted the airline to implement changes that will improve sustainability long term.

“Covid has, dare I say it, been a little bit of a support for sustainability as we have removed unnecessary packaging and unnecessary weight on aircraft, with buy-ins from vendors, suppliers and staff.”

She said once the pandemic has passed she hopes the airline will be able to reduce on-board PPE, but said other Covid measures — such as the removal of other plastic in the cabins, and changes in how Etihad produces its catering and transfers it to aircraft —   are “all here to stay”.

She said customer research throughout the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of passenger health and wellbeing.

“We had regular discussions with our Customer Advisory Board, with many high-value, frequent travellers, and we found that although there was a real willingness and wanting to get back in the air, there was still a hesitance,” she said.

“It made us go back to the drawing board and in June we launched our wellness programme. Our customers were telling us they wanted to tangibly see how we were protecting their safety and emotional health and wellbeing, whether on an aircraft or in a lounge. There is now a greater awareness of traveller wellbeing and I don’t think that’s going to go away.”