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  • Chidozie Uzoezie

World Aviation Festival Day 2: Evolutions, Innovations and More

The afternoon sessions on the second day of the World Aviation Festival focused on sustainability, inflight entertainment, and diversity and inclusivity. CarTrawler launched their annual report on ancillary spend with a European surge onto the leader board. 


Peter O’Donovan, CEO of CarTrawler unveiled the company’s 2023 yearbook on ancillary spend. In his first year in the job, Peter announced the company is busier than ever with ancillary spend now up 16% on pre-Covid levels.

Topping the yearbook’s leader board was Delta Airlines with an ancillary spend up 37% year-on-year. The top European airline was easyJet in seventh place with an increase of 273% year-on-year.

Assaia announced that Berlin Brandenberg Airport (BER) are implementing their AI-based software solution to optimise its handling processes.

Thomas Hoff Anderson, Chief Operations Officer Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH said: “An airport as an infrastructure operator contributes to a good travel experience for passengers with stable processes and reliable flight schedules. In the future, we at BER will continue to rely on an AI-based solution to further increase the stability of the network and punctuality figures.”

Inflight Entertainment (IFE)

Early in the afternoon there was a panel discussing how the digital journey of IFE is changing, allowing greater insights to improve passenger experience overall. This involved Miguel Ferreira at TAP Air Portugal, Joan Martinez Merino at LEVEL Airlines and Martin Cunnison at

Joan said that airlines are working to offer more services which is supported by advancements in technology. He added that the information LEVEL Airlines has gained through digital advancements means they can offer other services to the customers and get more revenue.

Turning to passenger engagement, Joan commented that LEVEL Airlines, who only offer long-haul flights, found that customers prefer to have seat-back entertainment. As such LEVEL is not moving away from this. Instead, in 2024 they want to introduce both options; seat-back with Panasonic Avionics and a wireless portal. This will enable them to assess the data collected from both, to have a clearer idea of what customers are using.

However, Joan said that airlines still struggle to get data from customers as the information from seatback is very generic. Whereas, with wireless portal you have more relevant information and can therefore customise the experience to the customer.

Miguel added that TAP Air Portugal is also using data for content creation and then using this to support customer preferences. They find that when TAP Air Portugal has content applicable to passengers it results in higher engagement. Long-term, they want to take advantage of these metrics and deliver what passengers are after. Martin added that is deploying wireless products and tracking customer clicks. This means they have a bank of data on user behaviour patterns which, importantly, is contextual to a flight and where passengers are going.

Martin commented that they are finding there is movement away from traditional content and into in-seat ordering, stating that this is ubiquitous across the industry. Recently, there has been a trend in managing content budgets because it is expensive. Despite the best endeavours to curate a content offer there are difficulties in presenting a ‘Netflix’ type of system. Martin added that experience of streaming is 50%+.

Next, the panel discussed the role of AI within the customer experience. Miguel said that it is feasible to include but implementation is hard, and several issues arise including the impact on work agreements.

CCOs on Emerging Trends

Four industry CCOs were brought together to discuss the state of the current travel market and where passenger trends will take us in 2024. Shlomi Zafrany, EL AL Israel Airlines, Sophie Dekkers, easyJet, Onur Dedekoylu, Pegasus Airlines and Aileen McCormack, CarTrawler held a lively discussion. The panel was united in saying that post-pandemic, customer behaviour has shifted, and it seems to be here to stay. Key observations were the demand for much greater flexibility in all types of booking and an earlier booking window for leisure travel.

Differences emerged around sustainability with easyJet a long way into its journey whilst Shlomi admitted that Israel Airlines and the Middle East were still getting to grips with the basics of decarbonisation. Sophie took the conversation into suggesting that airlines need to lead the journey to properly sustainable travel rather than waiting for the customer to demand it. This is reflected in the lack of uptake for the decarbonisation tick box on booking whilst Aileen confirmed that Electric Vehicle (EV) bookings were still in single percentage digits of their overall number. The panel concluded that consumers are not yet walking the walk despite demands for greener options.

Mobiles were a hot topic. For Pegasus Airlines, mobiles are the focus of their sales whilst for easyJet they are a means of looking after their customer. There has been a distinct shift to mobile for the entire booking process, but desktops are not yet obsolete.

Finally, the panel looked ahead to 2024. They predict that leisure travel will continue to boom post-pandemic with a rise in combined business/leisure travel with longer trips becoming the norm around work commitments. All the airlines are yet to see a recovery of business travel although easyJet reports that SMEs are leading the recovery with larger corporates left behind.

Wizz Air on Sustainable Business

Robert Carey, President at Wizz Air had a keynote interview discussing the airline’s sustainable growth plan. Technology was acknowledged and Robert said they are continuously investing in this and specific companies who are working to develop Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). Additionally, other technology is being looked at within aircraft and Wizz Air are working with Airbus on this.

Robert noted that a sustainable, profitable industry is needed but airlines should not be the only the ones taking the burden, it is the whole ecosystem. He added that previously discussed plans of taxing more often do not resolve the issue because this money does not find its way into sustainable projects.

John Strickland addressed the recent GTF engine issue which impacted some of Wizz Air’s aircraft. Robert said that before the issue they had predicted a 30% growth in capacity whereas they have now cut this prediction by 10% points to 20%. Robert noted that they are moving into phase two of the situation and they are taking actions including having aircraft coming off lease and cutting down cycles of the engine.

Final comments were on the outlook for demand in Wizz Air’s home market in Europe. Robert said that there is strong demand with solid loads even out of the summer period with bookings carrying through the December period and into the New Year. He ended by saying there is no sign of this slowing. 

In a fireside chat, Daniel Riefer from McKinset and Company and Frannie Levar from United Airlines discussed the sustainability goals that the industry should pursue in 2024.

Frannie Levar said that companies are not only concerned about their own carbon footprint, but also about how to advance the market. She said that there is a lot of demand and interest for sustainability in the industry.

She suggested that airlines should pay more attention to the customer sentiment and preference, and not just to the technical aspects of sustainability like SAF in an aircraft.

United Airlines has added emissions information to their booking path, so that customers can see the environmental impact of their choices and how they can help make flying more sustainable.

Diversity and Inclusion

Sumati Sharma from Oliver Wyman moderated a panel on Diversity and Inclusion in the aviation industry, with Pieter Bootsma from Air France – KLM, Sophie Dekkers from easyJet, Guliz Ozturk from Pegasus Airlines and Adrian Binfield from International Airlines Group as the panellists.

Sophie Dekkers said that the biggest challenge is to inspire young people to join the aviation industry and that more information is needed at the grassroots level. She said that the industry should change the narrative to show children that anyone can pursue a career in aviation, regardless of their gender or race. She suggested that one way to do this is to have people share their own stories in schools.

Pieter Bootsma from Air France said that the best way to foster more authentic allyship in the industry is to build diverse teams, meaning hiring a variety of people who can contribute to the team’s decisions and make them fairer and less biased.

Guliz Ozturk said that she hopes to be a role model for other women in the industry. She stressed the importance of hiring people based on their competence above anything else. She said that gender and race should not be factors in determining someone’s suitability for a job. They also discussed neurodiversity and how it is similar to the previous point. They said that if someone has the right skills for a job, it should not matter whether they are neurodivergent or not.

Consumer Behaviours and Experience

Later in the afternoon, Tina Haas from Dornier Group held a panel on how the next generation of passenger technology will improve the overall customer experience with representatives from Aeroporti di Roma, City of San Antonio, Budapest Airport, and Dusseldorf Airport.

Karen Ellis from the San Antonio Airport Systems said that it is important to be “listening to the voice of the customer and providing solutions.” Through understanding the wants and needs of the customers, airports can implement effective solutions and desired products. Education is important when implementing new products because customers need to understand what they are using to not resist the technology. As Karen said, “if you don’t know your customers, you can’t introduce things they want.”

Ira Fernández-Lázaro, Dusseldorf Airport shared data that 70% of travellers want to use nice and clear technological process. Therefore, it is important to “empower the people” when it comes to promoting new products and processes so that they can be more receptive to technological evolutions. Ivan Bassato, Aeroporti di Roma, added to Ira’s point by saying that airports need to incorporate technological products with as insignificant impact on customer usage as possible. Ultimately, airports need to offer a new and improved passenger experience at the airport to their destination. This can only come from education from the airports of their travellers and vice versa.

Istvan Szabo, Budapest Airport, agreed with his fellow panellists but added that for the passenger to have a seamless journey, airports need to make sure they have the operational capacity. Budapest has implemented new screening lanes to boost capacity and noticed an increase in travellers. Once capacity is considered, then technology can be implemented to further enhance services.

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Comments (25)

Sep 21, 2022

We just booked our QATAR 🇶🇦 HÔTEL yesterday for 2 différent short stars of 2 nights and 3 nights for the Final… . Not exactly cheap but ok price for 4.5 Stars luxury and in Doha Center City! Thanks and Good Luck everyone! Vamos MEXICO!


Sep 30, 2022

Wow! Stunning! Hilton seems to be taking Africa by storm. Just a couple of years back, they opened the first ever in Eswatini.


Oct 24, 2022

Wonderful event and topics discussed, hopefully we see the manifestations in our African airline businesses in the nearest future. Kudos to you all.


Nov 10, 2022