For a business that was originally created to serve the needs of the million-mile traveller, the grounding of the aviation industry over most of the last twelve months of pandemic has been an interesting time for us at App In The Air (AITA); much as it has for our community of six million frequent fliers worldwide, for our airline partners, and the airports that serve them.
Our users’ time in the air would allow them to connect with clients, close deals and keep in touch with loved ones; that came to a halt on 16 March with the ban on all non-essential travel. A year on from the first lockdown, the business travel sector has lost an estimated $710bn, and everyone has had to adapt.
ADAPTING TO THE “NEW NORMAL”
At AITA, we have always pivoted nimbly to create technological solutions that improve our service and the travel experience for our community. With flights grounded, confusion over air bridges, safe lists and airlines’ Covid measures, we adjusted our focus towards simplifying this information for travellers, giving them real-time facts and guidance.
We created a bespoke Covid Restriction Tool, available at covid.aita.travel, as an easy to search country-to-country and airline restrictions guide that provides everything travellers need to know in order to fly safely. The tool includes everything from regularly updated insights into arrival health requirements and government restrictions, to the policies particular to individual airlines. We also developed in-app functionality to provide further reassurance to our community, with updates on restriction changes as well as first-hand, real time information, crowd-sourced from users taking to the air.
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TECHNOLOGY’S ROLE IN RESTARTING TRAVEL
The contraction of the industry will be felt for some time. We can expect continued cost-saving efforts from those who have been negatively impacted during the pandemic, meaning less spend for corporate and personal travel for some. A greater focus on sustainability may mean individuals and businesses are eager to manage their carbon footprints carefully. The universality of work-from-home set ups and video conferencing will have ripple effects. However, the roll out of the vaccine is reigniting a pent-up desire to travel and, after a year of separation, many are craving the face-to-face contact that only a return to travel will facilitate.
Technology has a key role in helping the sector to adapt and getting us moving again. Digital health passports will be integral in managing virus transmissions and relaxing border controls, and supportive app technology will democratise these tools. AITA functionality will allow travellers to book with confidence, filtering their flight selections by environmental impact, offsetting their emissions and choosing airlines by Covid safety preferences.
Lockdown has allowed time to reflect on how we want our lives to look when the world reopens. As remote working gives flexibility to many, we expect a boom in Digital Nomad 2.0 and ‘Working from Abroad’. Many countries have already reformed their remote working visas, and we will soon be launching an AITA tool to help travellers explore their options and identify the best locations for their new bases.