The Signals That Will Point To Airline Industry Recovery

by 
David Kaplan
Thursday, April 30, 2020
 • 
3
 min read

There is no shortage of speculation about how the airline industry will emerge from of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the most interesting question at this moment is when and where signs of an upturn in passengers’ willingness to travel can be detected.

We’ve selected a few valuable data resources from parts of the industry that are meticulously collecting and updating intelligence on airline demand levels, sentiment analysis, search activity, economic conditions, and other attributes and patterns that will allow airline revenue managers, route planners, and anyone who cares about the state of airlines, to discern shifts that point the way out of the present demand suspension.

BCG Travel Recovery Insights Portal: As Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysts outlined in their early April Post-COVID-19 Flight Plan for Airlines, the duration of the pandemic’s particular threat to airlines is likely to differ by region and country.

At the end of the month, BCG created an extraordinarily wide-ranging set of analytical tools that will highlight changes across roughly two dozen indicators.

Some of the categories are broad (e.g., the stages of COVID-19 progression by country, economic and consumer sentiment, government restrictions) while others are specific to aviation (e.g., air travel search activity, airline transactions, airline web traffic).

The BCG Travel Recovery Insights Portal is powered by airline-owned settlement and omnichannel transactions platform ARC and big data travel company 3Victors.

Coronavirus Flight Cancelation Tracker: On March 11, the World Health Organization officially designated COVID-19 a pandemic, the U.S. government responded with European Union travel restrictions, and a flurry of abrupt airline schedule cuts followed. The next day, Jason Rabinowitz, head of Catalogue Data at airline pricing, content, and data distributor ATPCO, reacted quickly, creating a spreadsheet detailing changes in carriers’ capacity.

As the crisis accelerated, flights being taken off schedules at practically every major global airline, Rabinowitz received help in expanding the spreadsheet.

In addition to general crowdsourcing via Twitter, some of the contributors now include PaxEx.aero Founder Seth Miller, Flightradar24 Media and Community Relations Director Ian Petchenik, The Air Current Editor-In-Chief Jon Ostrower, JetTip’s Nick Benson, and South China Morning Post Senior Aviation Reporter Danny Lee, as Apex Aero reported.

OAG: Since January, a month after the novel coronavirus first emerged, flight schedule data provider OAG has been tracking the impact of the infection on aviation capacity.

In a publicly available chart that is updated daily, OAG displays the number of flights departing from various countries for each week going back to January 20. It shows what “the old normal” looked like by presenting a comparison to the same corresponding week in 2019.

Among the insights that can be gleaned from the chart, the last week in April shows the number of scheduled flights is now down by 67 percent compared to the same week last year.

Most notably, given the current pall hanging over the airline industry, reductions in capacity appear to have stabilized. However, OAG’s data also shows that in many markets, there has not been much remaining capacity to be removed.

Still, when capacity begins to return, OAG’s chart will offer a clear and simple pinpoint to watch.

PROS’s Mike Sloan: At the end of March, Mike Slone, PROS’ VP, Principal-Travel Retail, had the idea to create an evolving survey (we covered its initial rollout here) designed to gauge what kind of offers airlines would need to provide in order to get people booking amid the anxiety of the pandemic.

Inspired by discussions he had already been having about potential challenges airlines as a participant in the IATA Think Tank, the survey’s main is to find out How do we help airlines now? How do we help airlines now to generate new or alternative revenue streams or preserve cash? 

The second set of questions Slone is trying to answer include What do we do to help the global aviation industry rebound? How do we help airlines between now and then rebound? 

A recent update on the survey’s findings in PhocusWire, indicates that 80 percent of respondents are interested in signing up for “airline subscriptions” – as long as they come with “additional, elite privileges.” In addition, 67 percent of survey participants say they might purchase an annual airline subscription with unlimited flights for a flat fee.

ATPCO’s Retail Reassurance: Addressing post-COVID concerns about cabin air circulation and hygiene standards, ATPCO, has augmented and updated its real-time airline retailing display features with  a pro-bono initiative to help carriers announce policies that address these concerns. Airlines have taken the opportunity to introduce more efficient disinfecting and health monitoring for flights via sales channels to prospective fliers.

Addressing the immediate fact that there are still many flights operating. And some scheduled flights are being brought back into operation,  ATPCO has developed a new product: “Reassurance UPAs,” which displays “a broad set items that describe specific measures airlines are taking to protect flyers.”

ATPCO’s customized Reassurance UPAs were created for nearly 90 airlines, representing more than two thirds of the flight schedule. ATPCO is currently inviting airlines to partner on additional programs to tailor these Reassurance UPAs according to the protocols each airline has implemented and to provide access to that content for integration into flight shopping results across airlines’ direct and indirect channels – at no cost.

Reassurance UPAs currently fall into the following categories, with new ones being added as airlines change practices:

  • Flexible booking
  • Air circulation
  • Cabin cleaning
  • Food service hygiene
  • Health safety measures
  • Airport cleaning
  • Passenger & crew well-being
  • Schedule adjustments
  • Health screenings

Security exceptions (e.g., larger bottles of hand sanitizer allowed by TSA)

ARC Updates Travel Data: As the omnichannel tech platform for airline transactions, ARC has created four programs designed to help airlines and the surrounding industry get a wider view of what’s happening (and what isn’t) with ticketing and sales volume, debit memos and chargebacks, settlements, and refund information.