While business aviation is seeing an upward trend in flights and showing positive signs of recovery, we’ve still got a long road ahead of us until things are “back to normal.”
But during a recent conversation with Gogo customers on the impacts of COVID-19 and the ways they are adapting and changing operations and use – we discovered that normal may never be the same, and, in some ways, current events are expanding people’s understanding of the benefits and usability of business and private jet travel – particularly when it comes to connectivity.
We thought it would be helpful to the industry to share the knowledge our customers shared with us. Below, read the five major trends our customers talked about, demonstrating how corporate flight departments and charter operators are exploring new ways to use their aircraft and connectivity technology to fly now and keep driving their businesses, both on the ground and in the air.
During this pandemic, conducting business virtually face-to-face is more important than ever. And business aviation is no different. Video and streaming are high priorities during flight time to maximize productivity and stay connected with family and friends on the ground.
“It’s a whole new world,” says Jim Janaitis, IBM Flight Operations. “There are going to be some permanent changes. How we do business is going to change with a shift to remote working and new protocols from home to plane to office. Maximizing flight time is now even more important than before with a focus on video conferencing by starting the meeting on the airplane so they’re ahead when they hit ground. Which means more streaming capacity is needed.”
Stat: 94% of businesses say video conferencing increases productivity.
“The office in the sky is becoming more important, but even more so in using the aircraft as an office on the ground,” adds Greg Hamelink, Senior Manager Flight Operations & Maintenance at Stryker Corporation. “Our executives need air and ground level connectivity because they’re not going into the FBO or into a hotel to conduct a meeting, they just hold the meeting in the plane instead.”
“We need a more balanced approach in bandwidth and need both the up and down link to be strong for video conferencing,” says an Associate Director of Aircraft Maintenance.
Business aviation customers are not planning overnight stays anymore. Their missions now are all “in and out” so the employees and crew aren’t using hotels or conference rooms to get work done at their destination, instead they’re using the jet as a true office and working from there while the execs go their meetings. The Associate Director of Aircraft Maintenance adds, “We fly out, drop off, and then come back. We never stay overnight.”
“Our executives need air and ground level connectivity because they’re not going into the FBO or into a hotel to conduct a meeting, they just hold the meeting in the plane instead.”
Flight department heads are seeing more use of the company jet by “non-VIPs/executives” because of restrictions on commercial flights, more and more mid-level type employees are using the aircraft and need to be productive.
“We’ve opened the flight department up to more departments in the organization to improve productivity – so people who wouldn’t usually have used the corporate jet are now coming onboard,” says Brad Johnson, Coca-Cola Company.
“There’s been an increase in the number of people who will access the aircraft and when we start to travel again, we will not be using commercial,” adds Hamelink.
Keeping passengers, pilots, and crew safe has always been a top priority but now there are new state and federal guidelines on cleaning and safety protocols to follow, along with internal company policies that apply to aircraft.
“Prior to every flight, there is a COVID briefing, which can take an hour,” noted the Associate Director of Aircraft Maintenance of a major corporate flight department. “It’s a lot of additional time to fit into scheduling and that includes checking the safety app we use to allow anyone to enter the plane.”
“We’ve limited the number of people on each flight. What used to be an eight- to ten-person flight is now limited to five people max. And everyone needs to wear a mask while onboard,” says Johnson.
“We have a new clean check standard, and no-contact pick-up including passengers loading their own bags, parking their own cars, and having crew never touch other people’s belongings,” adds the Chief Operating Officer of an aviation company.
“It’s hard to keep up with all of the state rules but we’re vigilant about following them,” says Brad Townsend, Corteva Agriscience. “It would be useful to have some aviation standards, rather than every company coming up with their own.”
The amount of downtime created by COVID-19 was not planned but many organizations are making the most of it by doing inspections, heavy duty maintenance work, or upgrading Wi-Fi systems.
“Our shop has been at 120% capacity to do big inspections during this downtime,” says the COO. “It’s been our best two quarters for maintenance.”
“Flexible service programs would be really beneficial. Communicating how customers can be flexible in their plans would be very welcome as monthly fixed plans scare people, especially when everything is still so up in the air,” adds a VP of Maintenance.
Connectivity is more important than ever as owners, operators and passengers adapt to new safety protocols, new working spaces, and conducting even more business online. It feels like the new normal to work from home, but these professionals are learning how to maximize their company assets and easily and safely work from 10,000 ft. too.
So how can you transform your aircraft and adjust business practices to this new normal? That’s the power of reliable, flexible, and customizable Gogo AVANCE inflight Wi-Fi.
At Gogo, we just hit the milestone of 1,000 AVANCE L5s installed across a variety of aircraft. These systems are enabling our customers to take their offices to the sky and stay productive no matter where they work from. Perhaps it’s time to see for yourself how an AVANCE system provides you with the performance, efficiency, control, productivity, and level of confidence you need to be prepared for the future?
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