Review 2019-2020

The Future of Aviation
 
The aviation sector has been hit hard as a result of the pandemic. With capital programmes shrinking within the sector and limited potential for growth and development at the moment, airports will be heavily scrutinising any cost or time gains likely to be achieved from planned infrastructure projects or asset renewals in light of COVID-19.

Despite facing the potential prospect of a slow-paced and uncertain recovery, some pre-pandemic trends in the aviation sector, such as passenger automation and an increased focus on sustainability, will not be able to be ignored. Investing in infrastructure to enable passengers to have a ‘contactless’ journey through the airport will help give people the confidence to fly again. The technology for touchless baggage drop, check-in or biometric entry for example is not new, but there is now a clear use-case for deployment and a greater justification for the expense of installation. As touchless solutions develop further, the need for interaction is dropping away – prompting the need for new designs and new facilities that will support the new ‘norms’ of social distancing and minimising contact with both people and public surfaces.

Despite facing the potential prospect of a slow-paced and uncertain recovery, some pre-pandemic trends in the aviation sector, such as passenger automation and an increased focus on sustainability, will not be able to be ignored. Investing in infrastructure to enable passengers to have a ‘contactless’ journey through the airport will help give people the confidence to fly again. The technology for touchless baggage drop, check-in or biometric entry for example is not new, but there is now a clear use-case for deployment and a greater justification for the expense of installation. As touchless solutions develop further, the need for interaction is dropping away – prompting the need for new designs and new facilities that will support the new ‘norms’ of social distancing and minimising contact with both people and public surfaces.

An ‘anti-aviation’ green travel trend was gaining traction prior to the pandemic. Pre COVID-19 Heathrow lost support for expansion as the Government’s policy was not in alignment with the Paris Accord and was therefore ‘illegal’. However, the Court of Appeal’s decision to block the development of a third runway on climate grounds has been described by Heathrow as “eminently fixable”, confirming it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. Regardless, the judgement has wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions. The industry will need to demonstrate environmentally friendly solutions in future schemes and developments.

Until the end of October 2020, Heathrow will make do with just one runway. The airport is taking advantage of a lull in air traffic to conduct repairs on its southern runway. An increased focus on repair and maintenance work is more likely than expansion schemes until air passenger volumes (and revenues) recover.

Although we’re still a long way off all-electric commercial passenger aircraft, we’re beginning to see a future aviation industry that is not exclusively dependent on jet fuel.


Fleet renewal cycles typically happen every 20-30 years and we still need to see a paradigm shift in battery technology and energy storage capacity before the aviation sector begins to seriously think about adapting or developing the ground infrastructure at airports to enable charging. Despite this, we’re rapidly moving towards greener air travel and aviation giants such as Boeing and Airbus are experimenting with electric motors and hybrid plane designs that use both electricity and fuel. These designs could potentially come to market within the next few years which would necessitate an expansion of essential support locations and associated infrastructure.

This is an extract from our report on GT Market Intelligence.

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