Neerja Bhatia, Vice President, Indian Sub-continent, Etihad Airways, discusses some interesting trends that will define air travel in 2021.
The past year has seen businesses adapt quickly to meet the needs of a reformed world. New travel protocols emerged, air travel restrictions were announced and more importantly, wellness in travel emerged as a top priority. As the scenario stabilizes, the focus is now on reviving confidence in international travel. Several measures were introduced through 2020 to ease the burden for travellers and ensure they have a peaceful journey, one that prioritises their health and wellbeing. Some of these are here to stay.
Emergence of health visas or wellness certificates
While the situation remains dynamic and one cannot determine how the pandemic will play out through 2021, the world may see some form of wellness certifications. This may see increased vaccination or the introduction of health visas to certify passengers are safe to fly. To that end, Etihad Airways has been working with a variety of different companies, some within the industry, some outside of it, to develop technology required for a global health certification system.
Digitalisation at every step
Today, tech-enabled initiatives are leading the way for a ‘new normal’ in air travel. Due to the pandemic, there has been an accelerated growth in digitalising experiences. This also includes minimising or even eliminating altogether, physical contact at touchpoints, and ensuring contactless travel for guests, with their safety and wellness in mind. Most recently, Etihad updated its mobile application, allowing guests to manage their journey with even greater ease. The relaunched mobile app lets guests manage their details, book flights with voice search and enrol in the airline’s loyalty programme. We also publish digital travel guidelines regularly to ensure that guests are updated with any developments in these dynamic times.
Sustainable air travel is the future of flying
Sustainability has had an extensive impact on the world we live in and it is going to have a greater significance in a post-COVID-19 world. While commercial aviation still only represents around 2% of global human-made CO2 emissions, the airlines and infrastructure that support them and can adapt to meet the needs of a sustainable, carbon-neutral operation are those that will survive and lead the future of flying. Shaping the future of sustainability in air travel, Etihad remains at the forefront to pioneer new and effective ways of mitigating aviation’s environmental impact to reduce carbon emissions and create cleaner and more sustainable transportation for future generations.
Increased flexibility in bookings
With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic including multiple travel restrictions, having flexibility in bookings will continue to be a focus. The past year has seen a range of solutions and benefits that were introduced to help ease the burden and provide maximum flexibility to guests and partners. As the situation remains dynamic, this is here to stay.