Ticket flexibility will overtake inflight entertainment or on-board dining as a key reason to choose a particular airline – while carriers may start prioritising destinations by where the cargo’s going rather than where people want to fly to, according to WTM Virtual.
In an end-of-day session on Day One, entitled The Long-run Evolution of Aviation Activity Following the Coronavirus Pandemic, moderator, Euronews presenter, Damon Embling, invited a panel of experts to assess the lasting impacts on passenger behaviour as well as airline activity.
Virgin Atlantic Head of UK and Europe Sales, Rami El-Dahshan, said one of the changes brought about by COVID-19 will be “a complete mindset change” and an end to airlines putting on new routes, then waiting a while to see if the route becomes popular.
“It will be all about planning to turn decision-making round much quicker than we have in the past,” he said.
“Going forward, you will see airlines expect to have cash-positive flying instantly and as soon as possible. There will be a lot more fluidity and a lot more quick-changing management.”
Cargo, said El-Dahshan, has found it now has a ‘bigger seat at the table’.
While, previously, airlines looked at where passengers wanted to fly to and then “stuck a bit of cargo” on board, the question now is: “Where is the cargo going and can we put some passengers on there as well? It’s all about being more agile.”
Passengers also have different criteria as a result of COVID-19, the panel session heard.
“Rather than talking about the food and inflight entertainment,” the focus will be “how flexible will be my ticket?”
“We will start to see the trend where carriers are making simple concessions elsewhere and waiving restrictions in change fees,” said El-Dahshan.
Andrew Matters, Deputy Chief Economist at International Air Transport Association (IATA) told the panel:
“Some of the detailed surveys that IATA has commissioned show that travellers are just as concerned about quarantine and travel restrictions as catching the virus when they travel.”