How China Gone from Tech Copycat to Tech Leader

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It’s hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has caused to the airline industry, with global revenues down 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world going bankrupt. One time last year where the severity became particularly evident was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering “flights to nowhere” – starting and ending in same airport as a way to earn money from potential travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts estimate that air traffic will not return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond financial woes, the unprecedented downturn in air travel may have some silver lining, as key aspects of the industry are set to change once they get back to full force, with longer-term effects on the industry. aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to be expected in the years to come:

Cleaner Aviation Fuel

The US administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the United States aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel – about a tenth of current total use – from waste, plants and other organic materials.

While greening the world’s road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included in the Paris Agreement. But with air transport responsible for around 12% of all transport CO2 emissions and stricter international regulations on the horizon, the industry is increasingly looking for sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should go into a climate fund.

In Germany, the public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world’s first plant producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, Lower Saxony. The plant, of which Lufthansa is expected to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle integrating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied by wind turbines in the surrounding area, while the main fuel ingredients are water and CO2 generated by waste from a nearby biogas plant.

Further north, Norwegian Air Shuttle recently submitted a recommendation to the government that charges imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to the news site. Norwegian E24. The airline also suggested that the government dramatically reduce the industry’s tax burden over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fueled aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like the sun and wind power, hydrogen – with an energy density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel – could function as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes from California, where fuel cell specialist HyPoint has partnered with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for airplanes. According to HyPoint, the system – slated for commercial availability by 2025 – will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific wattage of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to break the speed record for electric flights with a new 23-foot-long model. Dubbed Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and made a successful 15-minute test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine above 300 mph (480 km / h) before the end of the year, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electric or air taxis. small commuter planes.

New aircraft models

Airlines are also improving aircraft designs to become more environmentally friendly. Air France has just received its first upgrade to a single-aisle medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told the French daily The echoes that the new A220 – which will replace the old A320 model – will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and the noise footprint by 34%.

The first international class will almost be a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space are put above luxury. The withdrawal of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that the International First Class – already in constant decline over the past decades – will be almost a thing of the past. Instead, aircraft manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways, and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business mini-suites where passengers have a private gate. The idea, introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class, but without the luxury of first class.

Hygiene rankings

Rome Fiumicino Airport became the first in the world to achieve “5-star COVID-19 airport rating” from Skytrax, an international review and ranking site for airlines and airports, Italian daily The Republic reports. Skytrax, which annually publishes an annual ranking of the best airports in the world and awards the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically designate airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother recording

The pandemic has also accelerated the transition to contactless travel, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics – like facial recognition or fever screening – to reduce touch points and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently analyze physical objects, such as explosives detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to “check in” and go through security screening anywhere at airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy concerns

However, as a Canadian publication points out The Lawyer Daily, the increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures such as digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

The billion dollar question: will we fly less?

Ultimately, even with all of these (mostly positive) changes we’ve seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty as to whether air travel will ever return to the US. pre-COVID levels. Not only are people worried about being on crowded and closed planes, but the value of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned, as many have seen that meetings can operate remotely, via Zoom and others. online applications.

Trying to predict the future, experts say the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are at least a partial model of what a recovery might look like in the years to come. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for the plane waned due to fears for safety in the aftermath of the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and stockpile planes.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

Leisure travel and visiting family and friends have rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK, according to McKinsey. This time around, too, business travel is expected to lag behind, with the consulting firm estimating only an 80% recovery to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, as global lockdowns ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country’s largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic has ended. Likewise in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said in the spring that they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 – with climate change being cited as one of the main reasons why people want to reduce their number of thefts, according to a study by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, large companies are increasingly forced to cope with the music of the environmental movement, with several companies rolling out climate targets in recent years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of business travel in the United States are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Hours, all of which have set individual goals for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying over the Atlantic for a two-hour management meeting is likely coming to an end.

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