After prolonged isolation due to COVID-19, people are eager to return to the skies and explore far-flung places. KLM is enticing customers to fly by tackling the confusion around COVID-19 restrictions head-on and making it easy to visualize the many destinations available.
The airline’s new COVID-19: where can I fly to? online tool blends the latest available data on travel policy with a flight search tool and colour-codes the world according to the level of openness. Vaccinated travellers can click on “I am vaccinated” to see the travel opportunities available to them. The map includes a picture postcard list of special flight offers to low-restriction destinations.
Customers can also click to view details on the travel requirements which would apply to them for the selected journey.
There is a necessary caveat that the travel information is subject to change as varying government policies continue to fluctuate. Still, the tool helps visualize the world as more open than closed. And, let’s face it, knowing where you can go is a giant leap forward from lockdown.
The airline has also invested heavily in making air travel safe and gives travellers options when circumstances change.
So where are people going?
OAG has published its world’s busiest routes and busiest airports for October, revealing that the route between Antalya (AYT) in Turkey and Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) in Russia has moved up to first place (from third place last month) as the busiest global international airline route.
This top-ten list also highlights a favourable recovery for Dubai, which enjoys a listing as either the destination or point of origin for four out of the top-ten international routes. Flights between Dubai (DXB) and Riyadh (RUH) came in second on the top ten list, and flights between Dubai (DXB) and London Heathrow (LHR) took third place.
Dubai has now displaced Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) as the world’s busiest international airport, recovering its first place, though AMS is still in second place and Frankfurt (FRA) has moved to third place. London Heathrow is currently fourth.
The picture changes when you factor in domestic air travel. Then, the top three busiest global airports are all in North America—with Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) at the lead, Chicago O’Hare (ORD) in second place and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) in third. Guangzhou (CAN) holds a close fourth place, ahead of Denver (DEN).
The Top 10 busiest domestic routes reveal a revival in Asia, with eight of the top ten busiest routes located in the region. Flights between Jeju International (CJU) and Seoul Gimpo (GMP) at the lead, flights between Beijing (PEK) and Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA) in second place and flights between Sapporo New Chitose (CTS) and Tokyo Haneda (HND) take third place.
Getting More People Back Onboard
As the skies re-open, airlines need to think creatively about removing the hurdles to flying and raising awareness of their offers in their retail channels and elsewhere.
Etihad Airways has announced a new multi-year retailing deal with ATPCO to create and distribute the airline’s Routehappy UPAs (Universal Product Attributes) to all third-party distribution channels. In this way, the airline controls the presentation of its onboard product, ensuring a consistent brand image no matter where the would-be customer searches for a flight.
UPAs enhance flight search results by including dedicated messaging, images, videos and even cabin tours. UPA content delivery can be targeted by aircraft type, cabin offering, route, schedule, fares and more.
A cross-functional team at Etihad worked with ATPCO’s retailing team to create engaging content that showcases the airline’s cabin design, onboard amenities, and other passenger experience features and presents ancillary options on third-party channels. The airline’s UPA content is now live on over 40 sales channels, including Amadeus, Ctrip, KAYAK and Flight Center.
“Etihad is focused on improving its distribution strategy to ensure its customers have the same rich booking experience on any other channel as they would have on etihad.com. Partnering with ATPCO means Etihad can create a single source of accuracy for its offers and products, and ATPCO can distribute this to the market on our behalf,” said Martin Drew, Senior Vice President, Sales & Cargo, Etihad Aviation Group. “Working with ATPCO’s talented retailing specialists who are creating this compelling content on Etihad’s behalf has meant that we can accelerate our digital transformation and increase ancillary sales.”
Ailsa Brown, Head of Sales and Partner Success, EMEA at ATPCO, added, “Evolving and modernizing the user experience for flight shoppers is a priority for ATPCO. Routehappy content helps airlines differentiate their offerings in-flight shopping displays, ultimately improving conversion, upsell, and customer satisfaction. Having Etihad Airways onboard means they can now get their content to market in an omnichannel environment quickly and efficiently.”
Preparing for A New Way to Fly
Even as the ramp-up to recovery gets underway, it’s never too soon to build the future.
Munich Airport is betting big on urban air mobility and eVTOL through a partnership with Urban-Air Port to design and operate take-off and landing infrastructure for eVTOL air taxis by the middle of the decade.
As Munich Airport explains, Urban-Air Port is deploying its “Air One” program – a fully operational and integrated airport for drones and eVTOL that interlinks air mobility with ground transportation in a multimodal hub. Air One will be located in a downtown setting starting with Coventry, UK, in Spring 2022. They aim to demonstrate an ultra-compact, rapidly deployable, multi-functional operations hub for human-crewed and uncrewed vehicles providing aircraft command and control, charging and refuelling, cargo and passenger loading and other associated services.
MAI will offer its aviation and non-aviation expertise to the planning, development, and operation of Air One to introduce and operate urban-air ports. Beyond Air One, both companies will work on long term projects and focus on use cases and markets which may emerge over the next couple of years.
“The aviation industry is constantly evolving. While Urban Air Mobility was a vague vision just a few years ago, this trend is within reach today. We as Munich Airport International see great potential in this new mode of transportation and have developed an advanced air mobility program to actively shape the future,” states Dr Ralf Gaffal, MAI’s Managing Director. “Partnering with Urban-Air Port allows us to join forces in designing, implementing and operating scalable and sustainable urban-air ports around the world.”
“Urban-Air Port is not only working with the world’s leading developers of eVTOLs but also developing the full ecosystem to enable air mobility to take flight by building strategic partnerships with major mobility and industry partners across the world,” said Ricky Sandhu, Founder & Executive Chairman at Urban-Air Port. “This collaboration with Munich Airport International, the ‘5-Star Standard’ in airport operations, allows us to jointly develop our expertise in airport development and operations. Moreover, we can lay the foundations for a globally integrated urban air transport network. Together, we strive to play a major role in shaping the future of urban air mobility and to equip and adapt the aviation industry to meet the needs of the coming decades.”
While flying cars may still be a far-off concept, air taxis could finally have their day due to the pandemic, giving customers another option to fly shorter distances without having to share a large aircraft cabin. eVTOL aircraft might also play a role in intermodal connectivity, delivering passengers to the airport for onward connections on larger planes. The logistics opportunities are also compelling. We know that people have become accustomed to having things delivered to their homes during the lockdown. This shop-from-home mindset that was already present before the pandemic may stick around long after COVID-19 risk is contained around the world. Building adequate infrastructure to support home deliveries by drone is a necessary next step in evolving online retail and shipping. Doing so at an airport, where much of the essential shipping and handling infrastructure is already in place, makes a lot of sense.