Virtual Conferencing Seen Limiting Air Travel Post COVID-19

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Chinedu Eze

Before the global lockdown of socio-economic activities due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, corporate organisations and other businesses often engage in virtual conferencing, where officials connect to each others through the internet and hold virtual meetings.

Some of the officials could be at different parts of the world but connected together through the virtual platform.
This used to be alternative choice for organisations, but it became inevitable for some businesses since the COVID-19 lockdown because there is restriction on movement and there are no scheduled international flights, so internet conferencing has become the choice.

Aviation experts have predicted that this method of meeting would continue after the pandemic and it would cut down air travel, which would over time affect passenger traffic, as business travel constitute high percentage of total passenger movement both for domestic and international scheduled air services.

Aviation industry consultant and Principal Partner, Etimfri Group, Amos Akpan, said the industry cannot ignore the effect of virtual platforms as the alternative to travels for physical meetings.

“Recently the USA Supreme Court made public the use of video conference to present a critical judgment without physical meeting. OPEC just concluded a meeting that decided on cut of oil production and it was by virtual platform. “Bankers are moving funds and closing transactions from their homes using virtual platforms. Classes, projects and tests are ongoing in most universities by virtual platforms. Stores are selling by virtual platforms while the logistics chain key in for physical delivery.

“Prior to COVID-19, airlines could fill seats on a flight without seeing people queue on their counter. They just required physical security checks at boarding/embarkation. The issue to analyse is how this development will affect the industry after covid-19 lockdown,” Akpan observed.

He said an airline could and would still do virtual order and receipt of spare parts by involving the logistics chain. They could and would still carry out repairs and maintenance diagnosis on aircraft by virtual platforms between manufacturer, workshop, and operator’s technicians.

“Flight planning, weather, and clearances could and would be done by virtual platforms. Payments for services in the industry will continue to be by virtual platforms. If virtual platforms become very relevant and successful in all spheres of business transactions, the physical meetings and contacts would be less frequent.

“This implies less travels, which also translates to lower demand for seats on intercity flights,” he said.
He noted that airlines would have to rethink the provision of flight services, remarking that the strategy of conducting business would have to adapt to the emerging narrative.

“For instance, there will be need to adjust the capacity provided on intercity flights which will be determined by realities of the new demands. There will be need to provide aircraft types suitable for logistics chain. There will be need for airlines to start acquiring drones for mapping, for aerial photography and for farm spraying. The business modules have to change to fit the emerging dynamics,” the industry consultant said.

He said for airlines to survive, he would recommend a robust business module that would be able to take “our domestic environment into consideration.”

“We certainly do not want a total collapse of our local airline industry. Let us watch, plan, re-plan and adjust. Above all, let us look inwards and prepare because COVID-19 is one lesson for other issues that are coming.
“Check the current rate people are conducting businesses successfully without physical meetings. It shows a paradigm shift. It will not go away soon.

“Comedians, presentation of new products by corporate bodies, military situation rooms, high-ranking commands, and scientists use virtual platforms to disseminate information amongst themselves. It has come to stay as a new way of life.

“The COVID-19 lockdown presents the opportunity to accelerate its spread of usage. If I were the business strategist for an airline, I would package business portfolios that captures this new phenomenon from 2021,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Operating Officer of Dana Air, Obi Mbanuzuo, said post COVID-19 would witness essential travel and virtual conferencing would become very popular, so airlines would lose seats to these Internet conferences.

“The rest of this year will witness essential travel, that business travel that needs to happen. People will just stay for one place for now and look at what is happening and how things happen.

“Hopefully by next year that is when traffic will come back again. This year will just be the essential travel; maybe I will have to go somewhere because I must be physically present to go sign something,” Mbanuzuo said.