Airlines Eye Future of Flying, Open Doors to Modernization
From shrinking computers to the size of fingernails to powering cars with batteries, technology has come a long way in just 10 years. But one multi-billion-dollar industry responsible for transporting millions of people and goods around the world everyday has been slow to evolve.
Airlines have traveled far from the glamour of 1960s Pan Am. Five-course meals and spacious seating have been traded for microwavable sandwiches and cramped cabins.
The sector has been battered for years by high fuel costs and dwindling demand that squeezed margins and forced airlines to heighten their focus on cost management, putting emphasis on things such as ancillary fees for baggage and entertainment over upgrades desired by passengers.
But a new jet stream seems to be clearing some of those turbulent skies, and the desire to modernize is not only resurfacing, but coming back bigger than ever.
There’s a cry out from customers saying, ‘Just understand me a little better and give me the right package that caters to the needs for which I’m traveling,’” said Paul D'Alessandro, PricewaterhouseCooper’s global customer impact practice leader.
Every major U.S. airline, including United (UAL: 20.20, +0.26, +1.31%), Delta (DAL: 9.59, +0.06, +0.63%) and most recently American Airlines, have been forced into bankruptcy over the last 10 years, enabling them to shed unprofitable assets, renegotiate labor contracts and acquire more fuel-efficient fleets.
With cash freed up, the carriers can now focus on investing in new products, technologies and services that can actually help improve the experience for fliers, instead of alienating them.