The aviation industry is optimistic but still opting for a cautious approach after facing two years of Covid-19-related travel restrictions around the world.
New strategies, however bold, actually hinge on caution, especially as the future of the industry is unclear.
There is a silver lining, however, as people are also desperate to travel after staying at home for the better part of two years. In fact, according to the Air Transport Association, the number of travelers is expected to reach four billion in 2024, signifying pent-up demand for travel and a somewhat positive outlook for the industry.
What is the best way for airlines to move forward when they are expected to face unprecedented challenges? There is certainly no one-size-fits-all answer, as airlines do their best to navigate space within their own resources and limitations.
This question was also raised at the recent Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where many aviation players gathered under one roof.
“It has been a difficult two years, but I believe that as an industry we have adapted to meet these challenges. This period also forced the airline industry to reflect on what was working and what was not,” said Air Arabia Group Chief Executive Adel Abdullah Al Ali.
The most powerful players in the aviation market have understood the importance of sufficient liquidity to counter unforeseen financial crises, such as the increase in fuel prices due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. This increase weighs on airlines already in debt due to the pandemic.
Efficiency and flexibility are other lessons Covid-19 has taught the aviation industry. Sudden airport closures and changing travel regulations from country to country have made the market very fluid, forcing airlines to think for themselves.
Budget airlines were the only success stories of the pandemic as they continued to operate at low cost and survived. Flydubai is a prime example which recorded a profit of US$229 million in 2021 and increased revenue by 86%. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad has also jumped on the bandwagon and partnered with Air Arabia, a budget airline from Sharjah offering more destinations, lower costs and flexibility for customers.
Environmental impact has taken center stage, forcing airlines to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, such as ditching single-use plastic and returning to stainless steel knives and forks.
Rising fuel prices have served as a catalyst for shifting to greener air travel. Boeing, for example, is working on a multifaceted strategy to decarbonize aerospace that includes sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
These aviation industry discussions took place in Dubai during the 29th Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which brought together travel industry experts from over 158 countries, some joining online and others in person.
The in-person portion of the event was held May 9-12 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, while the virtual event is scheduled for May 17-18. The live event hosted 1,500 exhibitors and an attendance of over 23,000 visitors. This year’s ATM is 85% larger than the one hosted in 2021.
The event, which featured industry leaders, live sessions and competitions, aimed to strengthen the travel industry and facilitate important business relationships. The huge success of the face-to-face meeting proved that the world is ready to travel again.