Aviation is a global high-speed transportation network essential to trade, business, tourism and more, which contributes significantly to an increasingly interconnected social and economic environment around the world and beside that is becoming a key connecting factor between people. Airlines, airports and air traffic control networks connect metropolitan areas and small communities, individuals and businesses, social and medical services and humanitarian missions around the clock – providing essential linkages between the most diverse parts of life and ensuring that it continues uninterrupted.
The aviation industry covers almost all aspects of air travel and includes a multitude of connected sectors that interact with aviation directly or indirectly and ensure its uninterrupted operation. Essentially, it’s about the entire aviation operations and everything that surrounds it. It’s a vast industry assembled of numerous moving parts – from aviation maintenance to air traffic control, there are no limits. All of these enable passengers and cargo to travel. There are several distinct aviation sectors, three of which represent the main pillars the industry is based on: commercial, business, private and military aviation.
The main aviation sectors are
The commercial aviation sector encompasses commercial air transportation and includes the hire of aircraft to transport passengers or cargo. Through commercial aviation, people are able to travel on schedule for personal and business purposes. Commercial transportation is carried out by major airlines, also known as mainline, national and regional airlines. These terms as well as their outreach may vary depending on the air regulations of an individual country.
Business aviation includes all civilian flights other than scheduled passenger airline travel. 65% of these flights are estimated to be for business and public services that require more flexible transportation than airlines can offer. Business aviation flights include such activities as emergency medical evacuation, medical supplies transportation and humanitarian aid, airborne law enforcement, forest firefighting and agricultural missions, business and recreational flights of various purposes.
Flights in this sector are carried out by individuals who own or lease aircraft for personal use. In this case, a private flight is not intended neither for the purpose of aerial work nor commercial air transport.
Military aviation involves the use of military aircraft and other flying machines to conduct or sustain aerial combat operations. This includes airlift operations that can provide logistical support to deployed soldiers. Examples of military aviation applications are such operations as air combat, cargo transportation, reconnaissance missions (intelligence gathering), and training of military pilots and other personnel.
Aviation industry size & potential
Aviation provides connectivity and mobility, access to better health care and education, bringing people around the world together and contributing greatly to the three cornerstones of sustainable global development – the economy, the environment, and social welfare. Through its direct and indirect contributions to many other sectors, aviation facilitates the development of the modern world.
Every day 128,000 flights take place, carrying 12.5 million passengers and generating $18 billion in world trade. Before Covid-19 hit the industry, nearly 87.7 million aviation and related tourism jobs were supported worldwide. According to 2019 figures, 58% of all international travelers reached their destination by air. If aviation had been a country at the time, it would have had the 17th largest economy in the world, providing $3.5 trillion in global GDP, and those numbers continued to grow until the pandemic crisis.
The global air transportation industry alone generates more GDP than the automobile and pharmaceutical industries combined. The worldwide trade volume is expected to almost double by 2038 and contribute around USD 6.3 trillion to the global economy.
As of 2020, the global airline market was valued at just over $470 billion. This is about 42.4 percent lower than in 2019, when the global airline industry was valued at more than $818 billion.
According to the global aviation market report from Yahoo Finance, the aviation market is expected to experience an average annual growth rate of more than 5% between 2022 and 2029. By 2036, the air transport industry is expected to contribute 15.5 million direct jobs and $1.5 trillion in GDP to the global economy. If the impact of global tourism is taken into account, these numbers could rise to 97.8 million jobs and $5.7 trillion in GDP. Globally, there are expected to be at least 200,000 flights per day by the mid-2030s.
These numbers are staggering and reflect a dynamic sector. The aviation industry is expanding and will continue to grow, and aviation has a great future. Moreover, growth is not confined to passenger traffic, but cargo traffic in tonnage terms will continue to grow along a similar curve.
Digital transformation – higher safety and efficiency
A major shift to digital technology is key to improving sector efficiency, reducing operating costs and increasing customer engagement by providing personalized services, and enhancing their experience and improving service quality. Digital transformation is not a new process, but today it is entering a new development phase of both information and organizational technology. It affects a variety of areas: passenger tracking, aircraft loading, luggage handling, accounting operations, financial leasing, procurement, personnel, document and contract management as well as air traffic. Since the importance of digitalization leaves no doubt because it drives sector efficiency, reduces operational costs, increases customer engagement and reduces the aircrew workload, thereby maintaining a higher level of safety and reliability, the subsequent digital transformation is becoming crucial and more urgent to implement or adopt
Responsible consumption, environmental friendliness and sustainability
Creating and preserving renewable sources of livelihood is just one of air transport’s key contributions to social capital, along with connecting to new markets and new partners and developing modern economies worldwide. The environmental factor will have a decisive influence on aviation in the coming decades. The major focus there is on the transition from burning fossil carbon fuels to hybrid, electric and hydrogen technologies. The entire aviation sector is striving to combat climate change by investing in new technologies and infrastructure, increasing efficiency and developing environmentally friendly aviation fuels. Aviation has become a driver of global business and is now recognized by the international community as an important factor in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Transport in general, especially air passenger transportation, is the industry most affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. This has had a specific impact on technological development in response to the crisis. The focus turned to technologies that provide safe automated processes that have become more complex, improve the passenger experience and protect passengers and staff. Providing a guarantee of high safety, flexibility and the highest comfort to new and existing customers on the way to their destinations and thereby establishing status as a reliable partner and expert in the business became the key to steadily strengthening a position in the industry.
During the pandemic, the necessity to deliver goods, food, medicine and vaccines that used to be carried in the luggage compartments of passenger aircraft has caused the industry to see a surge in demand for air cargo. Some private aviation operators, due to a lack of passenger bookings, were forced to switch to air cargo for the first time and thus gained customers from a completely different segment. Providing service to newly acquired business customers from the cargo sector is another important emerging trend in aviation as cargo is no longer seen as an ancillary part of airline operations; for many, it has become a core business.
Along with the main industry trends, smaller, but no less important tendencies within and around the industry continue to evolve. Among them are the following:
Customer journey & personalization
Many digital transformation trends in the rest of the aviation industry are focused on interaction with the customer (passenger and cargo shipper). Today’s industry-wide requirement to continue the digital life of the passenger both at the airport and on board the aircraft is also evolving.
Air traffic management & route restructuring
The pandemic has forced many airlines to reconfigure their fleets, leaving only a selection of profitable routes. This trend keeps evolving, now focusing on the environmental and sustainable goals. ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) technology allows both pilots in the cockpit and air traffic controllers on the ground station to observe the aircraft traffic with greater accuracy than was possible earlier, and to obtain aeronautical and weather information. In the future, the technology should provide autonomous control of air traffic and minimize the influence of the human factor.
New aerodynamic designs & supersonic aircraft
Replacing the classic aerodynamic design involves the “flying wing”, a model with a wide and flat fuselage that becomes an aerodynamic surface and creates lift by itself. According to Airbus, this will allow them to consume 20% less fuel and passengers will get a spacious cabin with a fundamentally new zoning arrangement. Moreover, in the not-too-distant future, a revival of supersonic commercial aviation is expected.
Aerotaxi & drones
Aviation goes beyond mobility between continents and cities to affect mobility within cities. A completely new mode of transportation in the not-too-distant future is to become an aerotaxi. A variety of designs from various developers were introduced, most of which are variations on the electric multicopter, but of a larger size, attracting attention of the industry manufacturers. Another attractive feature in that case for delivery of various light cargoes – different drones – are already a real thing. Such services, mostly food services, by now operate mainly in the USA. Yet there are not many serious cases where drones would really solve any problem, but their potential is huge. One of the examples is the activities of Matternet, in which Boeing invested: it organizes the delivery of blood tests from sick children in hard-to-reach areas of Africa. Helicopters were used for similar tasks in the past, which is much more expensive. These innovations are still primarily concerned with transporting goods, but before long they will be functional for transporting humans as well.
Aviation has already been known as a driver of global technology development and progress
Nowadays the industry continues to be a powerful innovation force and the foundation for new mobility. Exchanging and utilizing aviation technologies and best practices will help ensure the success and resilience of the evolving mobility sector, gaining public trust and becoming sustainable. Aircraft and their engines are becoming lighter, quieter and more efficient. New technologies are undergoing change through artificial intelligence, automation robotics, UAV systems, the Internet of Things and the pursuit of hybrid and electric power, merely to name a few.