One positive outcome of the ongoing global pandemic is that many of us have had the opportunity to sit back and take stock of the importance of many things that we have often taken for granted, such as the ability to travel and experience the world.

Whilst the global pandemic has undoubtedly transformed all of our lives, offering many unexpected turns in a relatively short space of time, it is the commercial aviation sector that has experienced one of the biggest game-changing situations of all.

Airspace closures, ever-changing entry restrictions, increased safety measures, and traveller apprehension are just some of the factors that have resulted in an expected and potentially devastating pause for the industry. However, as an industry that is used to dealing with its fair share of challenges over the years, airlines have showcased remarkable resilience in adapting to the ever-evolving crisis.

Connecting people and places

For airlines to have a steady comeback, the key lies in offering unrivalled and seamless connectivity to passengers with as contactless an experience as possible. Even at the height of the pandemic, aviation hubs examined ways to slowly open themselves phase-wise, took necessary measures and embraced innovation to ensure safety and hygiene protocols were at the highest possible levels.

The promising developments in the roll-out of vaccines across the world is probably the fastest way to reignite international travel and, at present, is our best hope of returning to ‘normal’. More than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally, and now, countries across the world are joining the race towards total vaccination of their residents. 

As the national carrier for the State of Qatar, Qatar Airways has never stopped flying throughout the pandemic, fulfilling our fundamental mission of taking people home with our sustainable and young fleet. In recent months, we have continued to rebuild our network, from its lowest level at just 33 key destinations at the height of the crisis in May 2020, to its current number of over 130 destinations, including seven new routes such as Seattle and San Francisco. As the largest operator worldwide of the A350, our focus was not only on resuming destinations but also in operating as many frequencies as possible to enable our passengers to travel wherever and whenever they want, in an environment as safe and hygienic as possible.

Reimagining air travel 

Another outcome of the current pandemic situation is that, whilst customer preference continues to evolve by the second, the industry appears to be embracing digital transformation like never before. The increased ability to monitor consumer sentiments and acknowledge their needs has proven to be critical at every level. Passengers are voicing a desire for the latest hygiene protocols to navigate the pandemic safely, and the most effective and consistent way to manage this was through innovation. Biometrics and artificial intelligence have been making constant rounds in the aviation industry for a while now, however, the introduction to the ‘IATA Travel Pass’ has been by far the most promising addition.

I believe that the IATA Travel Pass is a global and standardised solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding Covid-19 passenger travel requirements. It provides safe, secure and accurate information on Covid health status, and can be considered the future
of travel, as social distancing norms, contactless travel and passenger health checks remain pivotal.

With safety, hygiene, and reliability being paramount, airlines would be especially invested in connecting people with destinations that have tighter border controls and strict vaccine protocols while continuing to provide seamless connectivity. The sooner we embrace this ‘new normal’ when it comes to travelling, the sooner the aviation industry will make a faster recovery than anticipated.

Thierry Antinori, chief commercial officer, Qatar Airways