Airline Passengers at the Centre of Thinking

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Last Wednesday saw the opening of a new terminal at Bournemouth Airport. It cost £45 million and was planned when airport growth was expected to grow to 3 million passengers by 2015. The recession has put paid to such growth, or at least, so far. Many passengers have already passed through the hall since it has been open since March. It’s just the official opening was two months later! Now the owners, Manchester Airport Group (owners of Manchester, East Midlands and Humberside as well) are turning their attention to arrivals hall which has seen better days. That will be refurbished by summer 2011.
This opening has coincided with a speech on the state of the air transport industry by the director-general, Giovanni Bisignani, of IATA (International Air Transport Association) the ailine membership body. Yes, I could tell you how the industry is back to about 80% of its pre recession levels and that the volcanic eruption has cost airlines $1.8 billion but that even after all this they estimate that airlines will make about $1.9 billion profit this year.
No let’s discuss passengers because we sometimes get overlooked in the push for profits and making life easier for airlines. What is easier for them isn’t necessarily easier for us. But Bisignani said that his vision for the future saw the customer at the centre of thinking. Just as well really since, to state the blindingly obvious, no passengers, no passenger airlines. But he offered no answers to his questions. Can we serve passengers effectively? (what does that mean?) As the middle class (how is that defined?) grows from 1.3 to 3.5 billion people by 2050 how can airlines handle that number. Which rather assumes they will all want to fly and that technology won’t have developed vertical take off passenger planes that require less airport space or that rockets won’t cut air travel time down so that fewer planes are needed to transport the same number of passengers. His sole crystal ball gaze wonders whether we might have planes without pilots. (Think of the cash saving Ryanair. It could mean some extra seats at the front of the plane that you could charge a premium for the view!)
The answers may come from an IATA initiative. They are setting up some meetings to develop their thoughts of what might be the position in 2050 and, for inspiration, they will meet in Singapore since the airport there is so widely liked. If he wants inspiration, why don’t hey meet in the old arrivals hall at Bournemouth before it is revamped. They will have a better idea of what passengers put up with!

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