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NEXTT revolution demands strong planning

26 January 2019
Hyperloop is just one amongst many next-generation technologies to challenge conventional ways of thinking about travel. Source: Getty Images

The nature and method of travel are changing as new technology disrupts the aviation business model

The NEXTT programme, developed jointly by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI), is intended to help airlines and airports plan ahead for the seamless journey of the future. It foresees multimodal door-to-door travel with convenience features such as off-site baggage check and flight check-in, biometric identity clearance, and the integration of rail and alternative forms of transport to the airport and even directly to the aircraft. But what will be the real impact of these disruptions?

At the 2018 IATA GAPS conference in Athens, Nawal Taneja, airline business strategist at Ohio State University, described “revolutionary” changes ahead. He identified four converging forces that will re-shape air travel over the next two decades: customers, technologies, regulators and complexities.

“Not only are customer numbers increasing, but their expectations and their plans are increasing,” Taneja said. “Technology is an enabler. What it is doing is empowering customers so that they can become more demanding. As far as businesses are concerned, whether it is airlines or airports, [technology] is also empowering new competitors to come in.”

Array of choices

Some competitors may be alternative forms of transport — for example driverless cars, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the Hyperloop programme, and new rail infrastructure. Other competitors are technology giants — like Google or Amazon — which may begin managing flight services, with airlines functioning as fulfillment companies.

“The area of distribution is going to change so much,” Taneja said. “New technologies are coming in data analytics and customer relationship management. [The likes of Amazon or Google] will basically point to the airlines and say, ‘Get the airplanes, crew them, fuel them, maintain them and fly them. We will take care of the customers after that.’”

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