Can We Fall Back In Love With Flying?

June 22nd 2020

Looking at the future of flying is like looking through foggy glasses. You can’t see what’s coming. But that doesn’t keep us from speculating.

What do we notice?

Borders are reopening, yet a thorough check on which procedures to follow is still strongly recommended. Quarantine? Temperature check at your local airport? And how much are those tickets going to cost? Are we into flying cheap again or witnessing the shapeshift of an industry? Air travel has become a bit weird, to say the least: mouth masks on, no catering on board and some airlines recommending to fly without luggage.

According to experts, the € 528 billion aviation industry will lose more than half of its value this year. An industry that already wasn’t in great shape. A system where the cracks were already showing: an unsustainable low-cost business model, overcrowded mass tourism destinations and the environmental impact of flying. Now that the first shockwave of the pandemic is (hopefully) over, the big questions remain: what is next for the airline industry? And how can marketing and communications help to recover?

The first communication job at hand was to inform travellers of sanitary measures. From airport procedures, via mouth masks obligations, to informing passengers of the high quality of the air filters in their plane. Now that this information round is over: the next communication challenge becomes how to persuade people that flying is safe again? And to reposition airline brands in a changed world. A quest for more purposeful and emotional communication has started, but it is also a balancing act in credibility, for airlines receiving state support and ‘ecological’ flying being (almost) a mission impossible.

In parallel, airlines need to relook their value propositions. Will people trust a low-cost carrier in an international health context where the stakes are high? How can airlines convince travellers who are rethinking their ecological footprint? The question becomes even more complex taking the B2B market into account. International travel is a strong vector for relaunching our connected world economy, but it is also a catch 22 situation: limited economic growth generates limited travel and vice versa. Yes, we will be bitten by the travel bug again, but it’s difficult to predict how flying will evolve. And for those who believe that they have a glass bowl, they could be staring at a mirror.

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Günther Van Lany Strategic Director

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