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Press Release New Study: Safety, Trust, and Innovation Critical to Air Transport Sector Revival

Passenger safety, trust building, digital transformation, automation, and customer experience lead strategic priorities for airlines, airports, and partners amid COVID-19 disruption

As they plan their journey out of the pandemic, airlines, airports, and other air transport industry stakeholders are emphasising total safety and trust building as central to their recovery strategies. From an investment standpoint, they will prioritise digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report jointly undertaken and released today by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios report, which is the first instalment of the four-part Air Transport 2035 series, explores how air transport industry stakeholders expect the COVID-19 crisis to impact passenger volumes and investment strategies. It also highlights four possible scenarios for how the industry might emerge from the pandemic.

A global survey conducted as part of the report found that over the next two years 68.4% of respondents expect investment in digital transformation to increase; 60.3% expect investment in automation and the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to rise; and 54.2% expect spending to increase on sustainability and environmental initiatives. More than half (53.5%) expect investment in innovation to increase during the same period, and 48.5% expect to see an upturn in customer experience and service spending, with less than a quarter (22.9%) expecting investment in this area to fall.

At the other end of the scale, three-quarters (75.5%) of survey respondents expect investment in aircraft orders to decrease over the next two years, while 55.3% expect to see a decrease in terminal design and construction spend.

Air transport facing two to three-year recovery period

During a webinar on April 23rd, which included the unveiling of the initial survey results, a live poll of the 900-plus attendees found that 44% of respondents expect it to take up to two years for the air transport industry to return to 2019 levels of business, and a further 36% expect it to take three years. Only 6% expect the industry to recover to 2019 levels within 12 months.

Another live poll during the webinar found that 39% of respondents expect the public to feel comfortable flying again once new procedures are introduced to protect passengers. 32% expect consumer confidence to return once a COVID-19 vaccine is disseminated; 11% expect people will only fly if they have to; and 10% expect World Health Organization (WHO) advice to dictate when people will feel comfortable flying again.

Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future, and lead author of the report said: ”The findings highlight that the industry is experiencing and anticipating devastating impacts on flight volumes, passenger numbers, and revenues. The sector’s recovery is dependent on government policy, health factors, passenger confidence, the nature of the economic recovery, and the extent of collaboration between industry players. We developed four scenarios exploring the interaction of these latter two driving forces and tested them on the webinar attendees.

‘Survival of the Safest’ (Deep Recession / Fragmented Industry Response) was ranked the most likely by 32% of respondents. This was followed by ‘Love in Cold Climate’ (Deep Recession / Co-ordinated Industry Response) with 30% of the votes and a further 20% selected ‘Hope and Glory’ (Robust and Integrated Economic Recovery / Fragmented Industry Response). The scenario considered least likely and selected by just 18% was the most optimistic one of ‘Sealed and Secure’ (Robust and Integrated Economic Recovery / Co-ordinated Industry Response).”

Daniel Coleman, Founder & CEO, Future Travel Experience, commented: “There is no doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for some time to come and it is more important than ever that airports, airlines, and their partners take steps now to prepare for the new reality. Prioritising health and safety efforts is a given, but all stakeholders must also commit to delivering a contactless, queueless, and fully sanitised end-to-end travel experience that is as automated as possible. Some radical new approaches, and collaboration between all parties, are essential to achieve this vision and support the survival of the air transport industry.”

Joe Leader, CEO, Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and International Flight Services Association (IFSA), added: “Over 75% of survey respondents still believe in five key areas where airline and airport spending will grow or remain the same despite the COVID-19 headwinds. The winners during this challenging time include digital transformation, automation, sustainability, innovation, and customer experience and service. That’s positive news for APEX and IFSA member airlines and suppliers.”

Download the full report

The COVID-19 Air Transport Near Term Impacts and Scenarios report can now be downloaded via the Fast Future website. As part of the study partners’ commitment to the sector in these difficult times, airlines, airports, and government aviation agencies can download the report for free, simply email with a formal organizational email.

For all others it costs just $50 . All four reports can also be pre-ordered at a discounted rate. Visit the Fast Future website for full details:

Two further surveys are currently being undertaken as part of the continuing study:

The Aviation Impacts of COVID-19 – Innovation and Digital Transformation

The Future of Air Transport of 2035



  • Total number of survey respondents: 269 respondents in 47 countries.
  • Respondent groups: The four largest groups of respondents were from the categories of airline (19%); airport (17%); industry consultant, analyst, service provider (16%); and information technology and communications supplier (14%). The remaining 34% of responses came from other players across the air transport ecosystem.
  • Date of survey: 17th March to 17th April, 2020.

About Fast Future

Fast Future is a research, insights, consulting, and executive education business that specialises in the use of foresight applied to explore the future of key sectors such as Air Transport. Through speeches, webinars, studies, and books, Fast Future explores, experiments with, and creates powerful future ideas and scenarios. The goal is to deliver critical insights to the individuals and businesses that want to consider and create a better future. Fast Future’s books and newsletter provide insightful and thought provoking content and profile the latest thinking of established and emerging futurists, foresight researchers, and future thinkers from around the world. Fast Future’s forthcoming book ‘Aftershocks and Opportunities: Scenarios for a Pot-Pandemic Future’ will be published on June 1st, 2020. To learn more, visit:

About Future Travel Experience (FTE)

Established in 2006, Future Travel Experience is an online media, events, and industry change leader in the air transport sector. As a part of the APEX family, FTE is dedicated to enhancing the end-to-end passenger experience and business performance of all air transport industry stakeholders. FTE hosts acclaimed conferences and expos around the world – FTE Global, FTE APEX Asia EXPO, FTE EMEA, and FTE Ancillary – as well as virtual events and webinars. Through its website, weekly e-newsletter, and think tank projects, as well as the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub, FTE is an important industry reference for all things relating to innovation, customer experience, and business performance. To learn more, visit:

About the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX)

The Airline Passenger Experience Association is the only non-profit membership trade organisation comprised of the world’s leading airlines, industry suppliers, major media groups, and related aviation industry leaders. APEX is dedicated to elevating the passenger experience for more than 80% of global passengers, while driving industry initiatives and desired regulations. The association offers members a wide range of opportunities to excel in the airline passenger experience industry by keeping them current with the latest industry news, trends, and developments and by helping them develop relationships with clients and colleagues from around the world.

Rohit Talwar


Fast Future

Mob +44 (0)7973 405145


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