It was Benjamin Franklin, allegedly, who first suggested that there is opportunity to be had from adversity. And it’s true that technological step changes for the greater good (such as the invention of the jet engine and the advent of the internet) are often prompted by the unspeakably bad (namely WWII and the Cold War).
Clearly the next few months will be no picnic for any of us, and travel, when we’re allowed to do it again, will be pretty grim – wearing a facemask is not going to do much for the enjoyment of a flight, no matter how comfy the fully-flat seat or well-chilled the Champagne. But I have faith that as we come through this crisis, our ingenuity and imagination will ensure that we keep taking to the skies.
Heathrow’s John Holland-Kaye said that social distancing regulations would mean the queue to board an average jet would be over a kilometre long. But management technology that allows passengers to ‘queue’ virtually would do much to help get around this problem. Crowding in check-in halls has long been an issue, and technology can help here too. Developments in areas such as ‘touchless’ biometrics to verify passenger identity, self-service and high-tech bag tagging solutions will speed passengers past security and to the gate.
The COVID-19 crisis has meant that technology that was previously considered ‘nice to have’ is now high on airports’ shopping lists. An industry survey conducted by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) found that nearly two thirds of respondents expect the crisis to accelerate innovation and digital transformation projects within their organisation. So the will to spend is there.
By thinking about how we can use the best technology to make the whole process of travel safer (and ultimately more pleasant), this crisis may not be a disastrous end, but we may rise from the ashes into the beginning of a new era of modernity.