Robust in-flight Wi-Fi connections vital to business aviation's efforts to physically reconnect people post-lockdown
As COVID-19 travel restrictions start to lift and people cautiously adjust to a new normal, the business aviation sector expects to be one of the first off the starting blocks to get things moving again.
While demand for commercial air travel is predicted by airline associations such as IATA to be slow to recover, business aviation representatives are much more bullish about the prospect of a swifter return to the skies. Private jet operators could, for instance, see an uptick in demand if companies that would otherwise have transported their employees on commercial flights opt for their services instead. The goal would be to minimize the potential for exposure to the virus.
The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) says it expects the sector it represents to be “one of the first-movers once it is safe to lift travel restrictions.” Business aviation has played a vital role in the fight against COVID-19 by applying its unique skills and equipment to help save lives. It will also play a critical part in reconnecting families and co-workers as the global pandemic begins to subside.
As EBAA secretary general Athar Husain Khan puts it: “Business aviation will also be on the frontline of the post-crisis recovery. When families want to reunite, when companies need to transport workers once again, when governments want to continue their repatriation efforts, business aviation operators will be able to help, quickly and safely.”
Connection is key
But physically reconnecting people is only part of the equation. Business aircraft equipped with robust, high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi systems — such as those offered by Viasat — will also ensure that travelers can connect with other people en route to their destinations. This can help to smooth the transition from weeks of working from home and videoconferencing with colleagues and family members to those first, tentative face-to-face meetings.
Now is an opportune time, while many aircraft are still grounded, to install such a system and ensure the best possible in-flight experience when the business aviation sector takes off again.
Viasat's satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi service provides more capacity than just about any other system on the market. That capacity is what allows it to support numerous devices being connected simultaneously with minimal impact to the speed and quality of the service. That will be a key selling point for business aviation operators as they compete for customers amid an expected surge in demand.
According to Lexology.com, demand for private air transport is likely to increase as travel restrictions ease, due to a combination of low jet fuel prices and concerns about the perceived risk to health of flying commercially.
“[A]s shelter-in-place orders are phased out and travel restrictions lifted, could the private jet industry not only return to early 2020 levels but also experience a period of growth? Economic and practical considerations suggest that it is possible,” according to the May 1 Lexology.com article.
The article cited the period following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as precedent, noting that while people were understandably nervous about boarding large airliners in the wake of the tragedy, “the demand for private charter flights saw a surge.”
Business jet charter and fractional ownership companies in particular could benefit from the expected rise in demand for private aviation. If the world does fall into recession in the aftermath of COVID-19, businesses and individuals could look to chartering or partially owning private aircraft as a less costly alternative to full ownership, as the Wall Street Journal suggests in this May 23 article.
Fewer passengers can lower risks
Commercial airlines — such as Ireland's Ryanair — have described the prospect of leaving middle seats vacant to allow for onboard social distancing as unworkable. Given that private aircraft carry far fewer passengers, they may prove to be a more attractive option – at least in the short term – to companies wishing to transport their employees between sites or to meet with clients while minimizing their exposure to the coronavirus.
Another factor that highlights the significance of installing a reliable in-flight Wi-Fi system as business aviation adjusts to the realities of post-pandemic life is the growing need for operators to communicate important information in real time. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) says that “communication is a big issue now, more than it's ever been,” and is urging business jet operators to “share a little more information.”
This could include communicating last-minute airspace or border closures as different countries ease or put up restrictions, depending on evolving regional variations in the severity of the epidemic. A fast, reliable in-flight connectivity system will facilitate this type of communication.
With signs pointing to a rapid resurgence in private air travel as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, now is the time for business aviation operators to not only dust off their fleets but to also ensure they are equipped with state-of-the-art connectivity systems for their users. Viasat stands ready to virtually connect travelers as they make their way to those physical reconnections that have been so sorely missed over the last few months.
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