Qatar Airways Expands IATA Travel Pass Trial
Qatar Airways became the first airline to trial COVID-19 vaccine authentication through the IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’ Mobile App. As more travellers return to the skies, the airline remains committed to reducing paperwork and providing a more contactless, secure and seamless travel experience for its passengers.
The trial will be rolled out in phases from July 2021, beginning initially with cabin crew returning to Doha travelling from Kuwait, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Sydney. Cabin crew will be able to upload their Qatar issued COVID-19 vaccination credentials along with their COVID-19 test results to the IATA Travel Pass Mobile App and verify they are eligible to travel. On arrival in Doha, crew will then be able to safely and securely share their vaccination certificate and proceed through immigration at the airport.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker said: “Despite the significant challenges the pandemic has caused international aviation, our industry has continued to be a leader in adopting new technologies and innovations to ensure a safe, secure and seamless travel experience for our passengers. Qatar Airways is proud to lead the way by becoming the first airline to trial COVID-19 vaccine authentication through the IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’ Mobile App. I want to especially thank Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Interior, Primary Health Care Corporation and Hamad Medical Corporation, whom without their ongoing support, this trial would not be possible.
“We know as more people begin making plans to return to their favourite holiday destinations, they will inevitably face the challenge of ensuring they have the right paperwork. Through trialling and supporting the development of new technologies, we aim to provide travellers with a tool that will support them to seamlessly travel across borders with greater confidence.”
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General said: “Qatar Airways and the Qatari Government are showing leadership by becoming the first to trial the verification of passengers’ vaccine credentials through IATA Travel Pass. Certificates of COVID-19 vaccination or testing status will be key to restoring people’s freedom to travel. Trials by Qatar Airways and some 70 other airlines have demonstrated that IATA Travel Pass can efficiently manage test results. This important new trial focusing on vaccination status will build even more confidence in IATA Travel Pass as a complete solution for travellers, governments and airlines.”
As travellers return to the skies with Qatar Airways, they can take comfort knowing that they are travelling with the only airline in the world that has, together with its state-of-the-art global hub Hamad International Airport, achieved four 5-Star Skytrax ratings – including the prestigious 5-Star Airline Rating, 5-Star Airport Rating, 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating and 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These achievements highlight Qatar Airways’ commitment to providing passengers with an industry-leading experience at every point of their journey, including the highest possible level of health and safety standards that safeguard the wellbeing of passengers both on the ground and in the air.
To make a booking, head over to qatarairways.com
Photo credits: Qatar Airways
Switzerland Selects F-35 Lightning II For Future Air Defense Requirements
The Swiss Federal Council announced on 30 June 2021 that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the aircraft selected from its New Fighter Aircraft competition. Switzerland will become the 15th nation to join the F-35 program of record, joining several European nations.
“We are honored to be selected by Switzerland and look forward to partnering with the Swiss government, public, air force and industry to deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 Program. “With the selection, Switzerland will become the 15th nation to join the F-35 program of record, joining several European nations in further strengthening global airpower and security.”
The Swiss Air Force will receive F-35A aircraft, a sustainment solution tailored to Swiss autonomy requirements, and a comprehensive training program.
The F-35 selection will deliver economic and technical advantages to the nation for decades to come. Swiss industry will have the opportunity to participate in research and development, production and sustainment opportunities that will extend their capabilities into the future. As a new participant in the F-35 program, Switzerland will benefit from Lockheed Martin’s dedication to autonomy and sovereignty in integrating indigenous solutions.
To date, the F-35 operates from 21 bases worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil. There are more than 655 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,380 pilots and 10,670 maintainers trained on the aircraft.
Allianz: 9 trends to Watch as Aviation Readies for Post
The sudden halt imposed on the aviation industry by the Covid-19 crisis hit the sector hard. In April 2020, two-thirds of the global commercial aviation fleet sat idle on the tarmac, while passenger traffic was down 90% year-on-year. Today, the aviation industry is slowly rebounding, led by domestic travel. As more aircraft return to the skies, a new report from aviation insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) highlights some of the unique challenges airlines and airports face as they restart operations – ranging from “rusty” pilots to insect infestations. It also identifies a number of ways in which Covid-19 is reshaping the sector, driving long-term changes in fleet composition, flight routes and passenger demand.
“The grounding of worldwide fleets during the pandemic has represented an unprecedented event for the aviation industry,” says Dave Warfel, a Regional Head of Aviation at AGCS. “Airlines have worked tirelessly to maintain their fleets and train their crews during this long period of inactivity and, as insurers, we take a keen interest in working with them to understand their plans to return to service. Challenges will no doubt emerge as the industry readies for takeoff again. Although it is hard to predict in exactly what shape the aviation industry will return, one thing is for certain – it will have changed.”
In Asia Pacific, airlines have fared the worst in the world according to latest International Air Transport Association (IATA) data released in June. The region experienced the steepest traffic decline for the ninth consecutive month, with capacity down 86.3%. Singapore Airlines is facing its second consecutive annual loss amounting to a net loss of 4.3 billion as of March 2021, largely because unlikely other countries it does not have domestic travel. Meanwhile, AirAsia X, the long-haul affiliate of Malaysian Air Asia Group and Thai Airways are in bankruptcy courts to negotiate time to restructure their debts.
1. “Rusty” pilots and the return of sightseeing flights
Earlier this year, dozens of pilots reported making mistakes, such as taking multiple attempts to land, to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System, with many citing rustiness as a factor on returning to the skies. In September 2020, an Indonesian flight veered off the runway during landing as the pilots had did not have the opportunity to fly an aircraft in months. Airlines (and other operators) are well aware of the potential for pilot “rustiness” and continue to take steps to manage and mitigate these risks.
Major airlines have developed different training programs for pilots re-entering service, depending on the length of absence. “At a time of such unprecedented activity, it is comforting to know that the risk management processes that made airline travel safer than any form of travel prior to the pandemic will continue to drive an unparalleled travel safety environment in the post Covid-19 world,” says Warfel.
However, the return of sightseeing flights in tourism destinations could lead to an uptick in risk for smaller leisure aircraft, including helicopters, particularly if there is an influx of new pilots unfamiliar with the routes and terrain. There have already been a number of fatal accidents involving sightseeing flights in recent years.
2. “Air rage” incidents on the rise
Unruly behavior of airplane passengers is increasingly a concern, particularly in the United States. In a typical year there are around 150 reports of passenger disruption on aircraft. By June 2021 there had been 3,000 according to the Federal Aviation Administration – the majority involving passengers refusing to wear a mask. The report notes that unruly passengers may later claim they were discriminated against by the airline in these cases even when in the wrong – a trend insurers need to stay on top of.
This trend, however was not a concern in Asia as countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea have imposed a blanket requirement for everyone to wear masks as long as they are in public and not only for air travel.
3. Perils from parked fleets
Although a large proportion of the world’s airline fleet have been – and are still – parked during Covid-19, loss exposures do not disappear. They change. Parked fleets are exposed to weather events. In Asia the challenge lies in aircrafts being exposed to extreme weather events particularly in countries such as Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines that are prone to strong storms. The risk lies in moving groups of aircrafts without causing damage.
The risk of shunting or ground incidents also increases, which can bring costly claims. There were a number of collisions at the start of the pandemic as operators transferred aircraft to storage facilities. More are likely when aircraft are moved again ahead of reuse.
Aircraft in storage typically undergo regular maintenance to ensure they are ready to return. However, never has the industry seen so many aircraft temporarily put out of service and the report notes that smaller airlines may face significant challenges when reactivating fleets, given it will be an unprecedented process.
4. Pilot shortage brings risks
Odd as it may seem given the impact of Covid-19, the global aviation industry faces a pilot shortage in the mid to long-term. The tremendous increase in air travel pre-pandemic – annual air passenger growth in China alone was 10%+ a year from 2011 – meant pilot demand was already outstripping supply. More than a quarter of a million are required over the coming decade. Moreover, the pandemic has forced many airline companies to lay off pilots as seen in Cathay Pacific cutting 600 pilots to ease its financial burden.
“In less regulated countries, shortages can lead to pilots operating commercial aircraft with limited qualifications and low overall flying time,” says Warfel. “Pilot fatigue is also a known risk among existing pilots that must be properly managed. Fortunately, there is a lot of industry expertise and resources available to assist airlines in building proper fatigue management systems.”
Some airlines are building their own pilot pipelines by establishing flight schools. Given the nature of training, flying schools are prone to accidents and claims are becoming more expensive with rising values of aircraft and increased activity. Landing accidents are most common, but insurers have also seen total losses.
5. New generation aircraft bring safety improvements but higher costs
A number of airlines have shrunk their fleets or retired aircraft over the past year, as the pandemic hastens a generational shift to smaller aircraft, given the anticipated reduced number of passengers on aircraft in the short-term future.
“Newer generation aircraft bring safety and efficiency benefits,” say Axel von Frowein, a Regional Head of Aviation at AGCS. “However, new materials such as composites, titanium and alloys are more expensive to repair, resulting in higher claims costs.”
6. Robust performance by air cargo and trend will continue
Although passenger travel has been devastated by the pandemic, other aviation sectors have performed more robustly, such as cargo operators. In April 2021, Asia Pacific reported its best month for international air cargo since the pandemic began, thanks to rising business confidence, e-commerce and congestion at sea ports, while Latin America to North America freighter capacity grew by almost a third in May 2021 compared to the same two week period in 2019. The report expects air cargo to continue to perform strongly.
A Singaporean low-cost airline, Scoot has re-configured their regular passenger cabins to allow aircrafts to carry extra cargo, while Singapore Airlines continues to capture more vaccination shipments as production ramps up and the demand for exports increase.
7. Business travel – boom or bust?
Pre-Covid-19 business travel traffic amounted to $1.5trn a year or around 1.7% of global GDP. With many airlines dialing back expectations in the short-term, the report asks whether those days are over. New ways of collaboration, such as video calls, proved to be effective and more companies are aiming to reduce business travel to improve their carbon footprint. Therefore, while there will be initial surge once lockdowns end, many airlines are preparing for a long-term paradigm shift in traveling, with business travel expected to be slow to pick up.
However, what speaks for a possible uptick is that some areas of business aviation have proven resilient during the pandemic. Companies that had aircraft continued to use them while many that had never purchased or chartered an aircraft before did so for the first time. Many charter companies thrived.
8. New routes multiply in Europe and Asia Pacific
Over 1,400 new air routes are scheduled for 2021 – more than double those added in 2016 – driven by Europe (over 600) and Asia Pacific (over 500), with regional airports set to be the main beneficiaries. Growth in China’s domestic market alone has seen over 200 new routes added – almost the same as the US.
China has one of the largest domestic tourism markets in the world. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism estimated there will be more than four billion trips made across China in 2021, a market worth just over USD$500 billion. The demand for domestic alternatives, possibly exceeding pre-pandemic levels is not surprising — especially as China is home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
“This development reflects the desire of some airlines to experiment in uncertain times, particularly smaller ones,” says von Frowein. “New routes means less congested airspace and congestion at airports which can have a positive impact on risks such as ground handling incidents. However, flying new routes can bring a heightened risk environment.”
9. Insect infestations affecting instrument accuracy
There have been a number of reports of unreliable airspeed and altitude readings during the first flight(s) after some aircraft have left storage. In many cases, the problem was traced back to undetected insect nests inside the aircraft’s pitot tubes, pressure-sensitive sensors that feed data to an avionics computer. Such incidents have led to rejected takeoffs and turn back events. Contamination risk increases if storage procedures are not followed.
Covid-19 Claims Impact
The report also notes the aviation industry has seen relatively few claims directly related to the pandemic to date. In a small number of liability notifications, passengers have sued airlines for cancellations/disruptions.
“Covid-19 has not been a direct driver of aviation claims over the past year,” says Cristina Schoen, Global Head of Aviation Claims at AGCS. “As a result of the significant reduction in commercial airline travel during the pandemic we saw fewer attritional claims than we would during a typical year. However, the insurance sector was not immune to larger losses during the course of the pandemic, with different regions seeing tragic accidents, emergency landings and hull losses to name a few. As air travel begins to return to pre-pandemic levels we expect claims volume to rise accordingly.”
AGCS analysis of more than 46,000 aviation insurance claims from 2016 to year-end 2020 worth more than EUR 14.5bn (US$17.3bn) shows collision/crash incidents account for over half the value of all claims. Other expensive causes of loss include faulty workmanship/maintenance and machinery breakdown.