“The air transport industry is going to be transformed in the next decade, probably more than many others,” Wired UK Editor-in-Chief David Rowan predicted in the opening session of the World Air Transport Summit here. He identified five trends that will reshape aviation.

The first is the need to remove “friction” from the customer experience. Companies that have grown the fastest have been companies that have “killed friction,” he said. An example is the new Amazon grocery stores, in which customers walk out with their purchases without having to stand in a checkout line, because they are billed automatically for their purchases. He compared this to airport experience with its ever-present queues and processes.

The second trend is automation—as in automated/autonomous vehicles. Drones are already delivering medical supplies to remote communities. Within 5-10 years so-called Urban Air Mobility machines will be a reality.

Leveraging data—massive amounts of it—is the third. “Data is everywhere,” he said, but airlines are not using enough of it,” he said. Rowan cited Qantas as a positive example of an airline that is using data. “One-half of the population of Australia is in their loyalty scheme,” he said.

“Speed-Up” is the fourth trend that will reshape aviation. Supersonic aircraft are already being developed, and hypersonic is the next frontier. 

Finally, Rowan cited the trend toward personalization and customization which is reshaping the way in which companies deal with their customers.

Rowan also cited complications that could affect the future—including security, for example, the need to prevent drone incursions at airports. Growing environmental activism including resistance to flying among the young is another challenge that cannot be addressed by denying it exists or wishing it away. And companies need to be careful to practice real innovation and not “innovation theater.”

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