The aviation industry is optimistic but is still opting for a guarded approach after facing two years of Covid-19 related travel restrictions in the world.
New strategies, even though bold, are actually based on caution, especially since the future of the industry is foggy.
There is a silver lining, however, as people are also desperate to travel after staying home for the better part of two years. In fact, according to the Air Transport Association, the number of travellers is expected to reach four billion in 2024, signifying a pent-up demand for travel and a somewhat positive outlook for the industry.
What is the best way for airlines to move forward while they are expected to face unprecedented challenges? There is definitely no single answer, as airlines try their best to navigate the space as per their own resources and limitations.
This question also came up at the recently held, Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where many aviation stakeholders met under one roof.
“It has been a difficult two years, but I believe as an industry, we have adapted to meet those challenges. The period also forced the airline industry to reflect on what was working and what wasn’t,” said Air Arabia Group Chief Executive Officer Adel Abdullah Al Ali.
The strongest players in the aviation market have understood the importance of sufficient liquidity, to counter unforeseen financial crises, such as the rise in fuel prices due to the Russia, Ukraine war. This rise is taking a toll on airlines already suffering from debts due to the pandemic.
Efficiency and flexibility were other lessons that Covid-19 taught the aviation industry. Abrupt airport closures and travel regulations changing from country to country, made the market very fluid, forcing airlines to think on their feet.
Low budget airlines were the only success stories of the pandemic, as they continued to operate on low fares and survived. Flydubai is a primary example which reported a profit of US$229 million in 2021 and increased its revenue by 86 per cent. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad also jumped on the bandwagon and partnered with Air Arabia, a low budget airline from Sharjah offering more destinations, lower costs and flexibility for customers.
Environmental impact has taken a front seat, forcing airlines to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, such as giving up single-use plastic and going back to stainless steel knives and forks.
The rise in fuel prices has served as a catalyst to opt for greener air transport. Boeing, for example, is working on a multi-faceted strategy to decarbonise aerospace that includes sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
These discussions about the aviation industry were held in Dubai during the 29th Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which saw travel industry experts from more than 158 countries, with some joining online and others, attending in person.
The in-person leg of the event was held from May 9 to May 12 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, while the virtual event is scheduled for May 17th and 18th. The live event featured hosted 1,500 exhibitors and a footfall of more than 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 competition, aimed to strengthen the travel industry and facilitate important business connections. The huge success of the in-person proved that the world is ready to travel again.