Aviation X Lab to Reinvent Next Era of Air Travel

Aviation X Lab

Tamanna Bhatia

Aviation X Lab, the ambitious aviation-specific incubator that brings some of the largest global pioneers under one umbrella, was unveiled at AREA 2071, recently. Aviation X Lab was founded in October 2017 with an MoU signed in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Aviation X Lab establishes a long-term partnership between Emirates and Airbus, Collins Aerospace, GE Aviation and Thales intending to enhance the travel experience. Telecom provider du (company) has signed on as its Digital Innovation Partner.

In partnership with Dubai Future Foundation, Aviation X Lab aims to innovate and create the next era of aviation with its bold vision to positively impact the lives of one billion people.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group said, “Aviation is a cornerstone of the UAE’s economy, supporting around 800,000 jobs and contributing US$47.4 billion to the economy, which is set to increase nearly three-fold by 2037. Dubai is looking to mitigate the challenges in the aviation ecosystem, and we have a laser-sharp focus on the evolution of technology and innovations that impact the industry, communities, future generations, and our planet. We want to look far beyond aviation as it exists today and embrace the innovations waiting to happen, the next set of Big Ideas in the aviation space. Aviation X Lab will identify, support, fund and make these innovations accessible globally. We aim to transform human mobility.”

Aviation X Lab announced it’s first-ever challenges with the deadline for submissions set in early 2020:

Challenge 1 – Carbon Negative Aviation Industry:

Although the aviation industry is responsible for just 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, the challenge is based on the premise that airlines produce 115 gm of CO2 per passenger, which is 859 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The challenge is to reduce this by 100gm or 87% to 15gm of CO2 per passenger-km by 2030.

Challenge 2 – Airports to AirPortal’s:

While the travel industry is projected to double in the next 15 years, adding 3.4 billion new travellers, the current model of airports is a barrier to passenger growth. The challenge is to rethink the airports’ model to achieve metrics of 10 passengers per m2 of airport infrastructure with a 10-minute maximum transition time between landside and airside.

Aviation X Lab to Reinvent
Aviation X Lab

Aviation X Lab is inviting and reaching out to start-ups, innovators, academics, NGOs, activists, and corporates globally to participate in the challenges. The incubator will select teams and bring them to Dubai to co-create experiment and develop prototypes at their premises in Area 2071. In the next phase, up to four teams will be shortlisted and invited to pitch to investors and venture capitalists for additional funding.

Later CRM models followed similar teachings but also incorporated better overall decision-making skills. Error management became the focus of the more advance CRM training modules. CRM further evolved into teaching pilots risk management strategies, focusing on workload management, recognising hazardous attitudes or patterns, maintaining situational awareness, and communicating effectively in order to operate efficiently and safely in all aspects of flight.

Aviation X Lab is inviting and reaching out to start-ups, innovators, academics, NGOs, activists and corporates globally to participate in the challenges. The incubator will select teams and bring them to Dubai to co-create experiment and develop prototypes at their premises in Area 2071. In the next phase, up to four teams will be shortlisted and invited to pitch to investors and venture capitalists for additional funding.

The opening event witnessed demos of three key products – two from Emirates, and one from Thales.

 Emirates demonstrated two ground-breaking solutions incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. One supports an important sustainability goal – reducing food waste. The technology provides real-time predictions and recommendations that ensure customers get their first choice in-flight while minimising quantities of unconsumed food. Bahja, an app created by a team of UAE Nationals, incorporates facial recognition technology to help measure employee happiness and provides real-time feedback. The app encourages employees to share their motivations with the user community, contributing to a happier workplace, and therefore happier customers.

Thales showcased how Solo, its virtual assistant powered by Thales True AI (Transparent, Understandable, and Ethical AI), could help increase safety and support the pilot in every decisive moment during flight. In the demo, Solo leveraged every available data to permanently provide the crew with the most efficient trajectory to optimise flight efficiency and passenger comfort.

Aviation X Lab will work in cycles of 12 months with five key active phases: launching challenges; sourcing start-ups globally; validating concepts; exploring rapid feasibility, and sourcing funding. Through this journey, X Lab will offer hands-on logistics support, research, resources, peer feedback, mentorship, and close collaboration to bring a change in the aviation ecosystem.

The Importance of Effective Crew Resource Management Training


Tamanna Bhatia

Effective Crew Resource Management Training

Around the 1980s, several airlines had developed and were delivering Effective Crew Resource Management (CRM) training. The main objective was to provide situational awareness, especially to the pilots. It was initially called cockpit resource management, and then it was termed crew resource management. The main idea behind CRM training was to develop synergies and teambuilding skills among the crew members. It was considered to be an important part of learning safety measurements. And therefore, in the 1990s, the training included not just the pilots but also the other staff like flight attendants and engineers as everyone played a role in safety.

One of the major drivers behind CRM was the incident in March 1977. Two 747 aircraft – KLM and Pan Am, both bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, were temporarily diverted to Tenerife because the Las Palmas airport had been closed by a terrorist bomb explosion. The KLM flight landed at Tenerife first, and its passengers were deplaned.

The Pan Am flight landed 45 minutes later, but its passengers remained on board. After 15 minutes, the airport at Las Palmas reopened, and the Pan Am flight was ready for departure. However, the KLM flight decided to take on a full load of fuel at Los Rodeos. It blocked the way to the active runway and the Pan Am flight got stuck behind the KLM flight. While the KLM flight was refuelling, the weather condition deteriorated, and the tower lost visibility of both the aircraft. There was a breakdown in communications between the tower and both the airlines. The poor visibility did not allow the two airlines’ crew to see each other and all this added to further miscommunication problems.

KLM was instructed to back taxi and Pan Am was supposed to follow later. But Pan Am did not understand the instructions correctly and could not figure out the exit runway it was instructed to take. The weather condition further deteriorated. The KLM pilot also misunderstood the controller and took off without getting a clearance. It was too late by the time, the Pan Am 747 spotted the KLM 747’s landing lights. Although the Pan Am tried to avoid collision by turning, it could not prevent the mishap. The KLM was briefly airborne, but the collision resulted in it crashing about 500 feet from where the collision took place. The plane was fully fuelled and that also contributed to turning it into a ball of fire.

This incident was caused due to several reasons. To begin with, the KLM Captain’s failure to confirm tower instructions and taking off without clearance and the flight engineer’s failure to warn the captain. Then there were overlapping radio transmissions which made the messages unclear. The investigation also pointed out the use of some non-standard phrases used by the KLM co-pilot and the Tower. Pan Am also continued to exit C-4 instead of exiting at C-3 as directed due to lack of visibility. Finally, it was realised that the airport was forced to accommodate a larger number of aircraft than it could handle safely.


Crew resource management was introduced in the late 1970s in response to NASA accident investigation research. The NASA research reported the human error element involved in aircraft accidents with multiple crews. Introducing CRM at this time was to gain an environment of equal respect, teamwork and cooperation to safely accomplish the mission of the flight.

Later CRM models followed similar teachings but also incorporated better overall decision-making skills. Error management became the focus of the more advance CRM training modules. CRM further evolved into teaching pilots risk management strategies, focusing on workload management, recognising hazardous attitudes or patterns, maintaining situational awareness, and communicating effectively in order to operate efficiently and safely in all aspects of flight.

CRM training was created to optimise human and crew performance by reducing the effect of human error through the use of all resources, including people, hardware (technology) and information (process) to solve problems. Used primarily for improving air safety; CRM also focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership and decision-making in the cockpit.

From the 1990s and 2000s, CRM courses were considered important and were well attended. Most of the airlines held on-site training at their facilities and the entire flight department was expected to complete initial CRM training with recurrent sessions occurring on an annual or biennial basis. However, the trend of on-site training is no more as rigorous as it used to be. CRM was primarily introduced to handle situation awareness and develop a team spirit. These are important aspects and should be given precedence. The new trends like E-Learning programmes cannot replace the conventional methods. Training should be more interactive for better understanding and handling of difficult situations.

Dynamic Airline Pricing

Airline Pricing

Tamanna Bhatia

Airline Pricing

Ticket airline pricing in airlines is quite dynamic. Checking the fares while booking can be frustrating when they do not appear to be transparent. Fewer stopovers, decent timing, a shorter route can cost a lot these days because airlines are offering fares which vary a lot depending on all these and several other factors. And if you do not choose the right time to book the flight, then you might end up sitting next to a passenger who paid half of what you had to for the exact same journey.

Airfare has a lot of pricing variables. The airfare changes from one day to another and according to an expert in the industry, the basic business strategy of an airline is to find ways of bridging the gap between cheaper modes of transport and more expensive airlines offering the same connections.

Depending on the time of booking and the seats available, airlines offer several different fare classes.

Typically, the ticket price includes the base fare, taxes and airport fees, fuel surcharge, service fee to issue ticket, food, seat selection and baggage allowance. In the case of a low-cost carrier, the last four are not relevant in the main fare.

One of the most significant factors that affect the price of the tickets includes the price of oil. Whenever the crude oil price rises, the airlines’ costs also go up. Airlines practising fuel hedging might have some control over the prices which are affected by oil price, but for the majority of the airlines, fuel price is the top operating expense.

The second factor which determines a ticket price is competition. Airlines offer fares which are competitive in order to have more business. If there is more competition on a particular route, then the fares are generally better compared to the routes where an airline has a monopoly.

It has been reported that booking a flight on Tuesday or Wednesday is cheaper than booking it on other days. Unless it is for business, it is recommended to book flights on the days when airlines offer a lower price. And if the passenger can be flexible, then flying on Friday or Sunday should be avoided because airlines normally flare up the fares for these days.

Therefore, it is not only where you fly but also when you fly that matters. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and often Saturdays because of low demand. Christmas time and summer vacation days are usually the most expensive periods but the prices can vary depending on the location.

Airine pricing
Airine pricing

While explaining the pricing structure, it is important to know that airlines assign different booking class to each ticket. And if any changes have to be made to the ticket, it would depend on the currently available booking class. This implies that if someone has booked a ticket for 50,000 INR and even if the ticket is changeable, it does not mean that you can change the dates for the same fare by paying the stated changing fee. It would rather depend on the class under which new ticket is available, and you would be required to pay that difference.

Each booking class has a different price based on various factors. And although there may be 100 seats in Economy, there may only be ten seats in each different fare bucket.

Airport fees and taxes also play a significant role in ticket pricing. If an airline operates from a smaller airport, then it might charge less. As a general rule, last moment ticket prices are always higher unless there is a special promotional offer. Don’t wait too long to book your next flight if you have already planned a trip.

There are many small elements which bring a lot of difference in maintaining the budget of a trip. If done sensibly, these small elements could save substantial amounts of money. Airlines use these pricing strategies to maximise profits and fill their planes. These days there are no cheap fares and in order to avoid paying more, make sure you book on the right days and be a smart traveller.

Dealing with Infrastructure Crisis

Infrastructure crises image 3

Tamanna Bhatia

The trend is quite evident, and we see more people are travelling by air these days in Asia. The number will keep growing exponentially, and there are some significant fleet orders in this region which confirms the growth. However, there is still an infrastructure crisis which we need to deal with in this region.

IATA has predicted the passenger numbers to double to 8.2 billion in 2037. Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing aviation market and would contribute to the growth of the worldwide aviation. It is estimated that more than half of the growth of passengers will come from this region.

Some of the Asian hubs have already exceeded their capacity and are already operating above their planned capacity. This means frequent delays and additional operating costs. The government plans to create mega-hub airports, but it is believed that these plans are not viable from a cost perspective and might not be able to keep up with the increasing demand.

Perhaps, developing smaller and medium-sized airports might be more beneficial as it would be cost-efficient and also help in the growth of two-three tier cities. The aviation industry is also concerned about sustainability and expansion of airports involves expanding the commercial and airside of the airport. Speaking about environment pollution, the aviation industry has a major role in dealing with the challenges of environment and global warming. In an IATA press release, it was noted that the aviation industry remains committed to its goals of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and cutting CO2 emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050.

Highlighting the need for upgrading the infrastructure, Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, IATA, mentioned that Asia needs to develop its infrastructure at a rapid rate because of the fast growth. He added that there was a need for adaptive infrastructure regarding air traffic control or airport to cope with that growth. IATA is advocating for an infrastructure which has enough capacity and is technologically advanced enough to be able to meet the requirements of the airlines and the passengers. 

In India in 2018-19, a total of 107 airports provided scheduled airline operations. The civil aviation ministry in India has decided to lease out six brown-field airports of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at Guwahati, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mangalore and Thiruvananthapuram via public, private partnership (PPP) model for enhanced revenue. The last report from civil aviation revealed that the total passenger traffic to, from and within India, during Apr-Nov 2018 grew by around 15%. India is currently the seventh-largest aviation market with 187 million passengers in FY 2017-18 and will become the third-largest by 2022.

To deal with the infrastructure crisis, the airports have to invest in ground handling and airport operations and make the processes more efficient. Several new trends show the use of AI and automated machines which can support check-in, bag-drop, seamless immigration clearance, etc. which used to be done by humans earlier. Airports in the Asia Pacific are investing in cloud computing as well to keep up with the safety and security requirements.

The current challenges at the airport include frequent flight delays, long waiting in queues and circling of aircraft before landing and these are due to the underdeveloped infrastructure at the airports.

The good news is that based on the growth prospects, foreign investors are turning their attention to the Asia Pacific countries. Several strategic and financial investors as well as organisations such as the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank are interested in FDI (foreign direct investment) that supports the development and expansion of the region’s airports. In order to take advantage of this, the local regulatory authorities need to cooperate and attract investors.

Aviation Consultancy – PwC had outlined in a report that it is expected that airports with terminal capacities of 20-25 million passengers and runway capacity of around 50 million will give the optimal combination of scale economy while allowing the majority of passengers to travel on point-to-point flights. Therefore, governments should plan to construct more optimally sized airports with capacities of 20-50 million passengers per annum, rather than mega-hubs exceeding 100 million passengers.

A Look at the Future of the Air Cargo Industry

Air Cargo Industry

Tamanna Bhatia

Air Cargo Industry

With the growth in eCommerce, emerging new manufacturing hubs and rise of the middle class in developing markets – the skies are blue and clear for the air cargo industry. While there might be some turbulence due to the slowing of the economy, the demand will continue to rise, and air cargo will continue to profit.

A few years ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a study identifying a quantitative link between a country’s air cargo connectivity and its participation in global trade. According to the study by IATA, 1 per cent increase in air cargo connectivity was associated with a 6.3% increase in a country’s total trade. Isn’t that quite interesting!

Brian Pearce, Chief Economist at IATA at that time was quoted, saying, “Air cargo is key in supporting the current global trading system. In 2015, airlines transported 52.2 million metric tons of goods, representing about 35% of global trade by value. That is equivalent to US$ 5.6 trillion worth of goods annually, or US$ 15.3 billion worth of goods every day. We now have quantitative evidence of the important link between air cargo connectivity and trade competitiveness.

It’s is in the economic interest for governments to promote and implement policies for the efficient facilitation of air cargo.”

In 2017, Air cargo traffic grew 10.1 per cent, which is more than double the long-term average growth rate. As per the forecast, air cargo traffic is expected to more than double, and the world freighter fleet will grow by more than 75 per cent in the next 20 years. The trends shaping the air cargo market include the growth in eCommerce. Global retail e-commerce sales were $2.3 trillion in 2017 compared to $1.1 trillion spent in 2012. This trend will continue, and the e-commerce market size will double again by 2021, reaching nearly $4.9 trillion.


The region leading the growth in annual air cargo is Asia. The economy in this region is growing, and there is a rise in middle classes which has more disposable income. The top market share is held by China followed by Japan. The improving Japanese economy, as well as rising global demand for electronics, automotive parts, are helping the airfreight market in reaching greater heights. India is also playing a leading role in this market. India is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world and will soon be amongst first three markets with about 420 million passengers being handled by the Indian airport in 2020 as against 140 million in 2010.

Air Cargo Industry

By 2025, the domestic air freight demand is expected to touch 1.1 million tonnes at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR). This is projected due to these reasons: the rapidly growing e-commerce activity (almost up to 9 per cent), increasing capacity and improving airline connectivity to smaller cities. Air Cargo business has overtaken the ocean freight & rail freight market, and India is one of the few global markets that has witnessed near double-digit growth continuously for the past two decades.

Air Cargo Industry

Besides India, Thailand and Vietnam are also contributing to the growth of air cargo as these two countries have developed into major manufacturing hubs.

Worldwide, Air cargo faced some difficulty due to the fall in global trade volumes and slowing down of the economy. “Protectionism, trade friction, BREXIT, and anti-globalisation rhetoric are part of a genre of developments that pose a real risk to our business… and broadly across the economies of the world,” said IATA Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac.

However, the market is expected to grow as the demand continues. The advanced technologies are entering the market and adding value to the cargo business. In addition, the global growth rate in the e-commerce sector is expected to reinforce growth prospects over the forecast period. There are also views about large-scale consolidation among industry players in air cargo which would enhance the scale of operations and improve efficiency and cut transactions costs. Technologically, there will be some major disruptive changes in the market, and it is expected that in the next 15 years more and more delivery of high-value goods will be required. Air cargo is used for speed and reliability, and it would continue to be a preferred means of transport for time-sensitive and high-value goods.

A Stroll through the Airports of the future

Anil Singh

The airport experience has morphed dramatically in the past 10 years with the introduction of biometric security, mobile check-in and baggage tracking. And there is much more to come.

The next decade will witness an exponentially accelerated pace of change with transformative technologies, from flying taxis to airports that think for themselves.

Benoit Verbaere, Business Development Director, SITA predicts major change for nearly all aspects of
the airport experience.

Verbaere says, “Passenger numbers are set to double in the next twenty years, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), but airport expansion won’t keep up. And passengers, quite rightly, want a smooth and easy journey through the airport. The only way we can make sure airports continue to work smoothly is by developing and implementing new technologies that make them more efficient while also enhancing the passenger experience.”

Security will be integrated into a frictionless journey

Over the next decade, going through security will mean walking along a corridor. No more taking off your coat, shoes, and belt, or putting little bottles into little bags. And no more queues. Passengers and their bags will be recognised automatically as they go through automated checkpoints. Hard checkpoints will be replaced by sensor corridors, making physical document checks obsolete.

Passengers will be in control of their digital identity

The adoption of digital self-sovereign identity and persistent travel tokens will put passengers back in control of what aspects of their identity should be revealed, for what purpose, as they travel. In future airports, risk will be constantly assessed by special artificial intelligence (AI), using the passenger’s digital identity. The sensitive elements of this data will be used only by governments, which will use automated collaborative systems to approve – or, in some cases, not approve – the various steps of the journey. Airlines will no longer hold the responsibility for processing passenger data for border security purposes.

Benoit Verbare Artilce image 2

Travel steps will be decentralised

Everything will have tags: people, bags and cargo. And they will be tracked throughout their entire journey, whatever mode of transport they are using. This will mean travel authorisation and customs checks can be made in advance of the flight, saving time at the airport. And remote bag drop-off and collection will be offered wherever it is most convenient for the passenger, at train stations for example.

The airport will be highly connected

Our new era of connected airports will be driven by increasingly cheap sensors, less dedicated hardware and new data lakes, fed by every device over 5G. The data will be captured through Software Defined Networks, collated and analysed to make the airport highly efficient and to make it a much better experience for passengers. The airport will think for itself Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will be the key to efficiency for the airports. Airports will use Digital Twin technology to bring real-time operations to life for all stakeholders, improving operational efficiency and enhancing
the passenger experience. A Digital Twin is an advanced computer simulation that takes data from across the entire airport and airline operations to visualise simulate and predict what will happen next.

That predictive data will then be used to streamline operational activities, automating them where possible. Automated messages such as: “Two A380s will land at the same time because one is delayed: ensure there are enough people on immigration desks.” or “The feedback from the restrooms on the second level is negative: send the cleaners.” The rapid exchange of information will mean proactive responses and therefore more responsive and accurately planned operations for airlines and airports.

The collaboration will be critical

Across every single journey, there are 10 or more different entities that are responsible for making your trip a reality. The only way to collect all the data to make this journey seamless is through close collaboration between everyone working at an airport: the airport itself, airlines, government agencies, ground handlers, restaurants and shops. We also need collaboration across the entire ecosystem of connected airports. Throughout this wide network, operational data will be shared using trust frameworks and stakeholders will share single sources of truth for essential operations. This will make airports much more efficient, for example digitising turnaround management, putting a sharp focus on getting aircraft back in the air as quickly as possible. Here technologies such as blockchain provide tremendous potential in facilitating the secure exchange of information.

Benoit Verbare Artilce image 3

The airport will be highly automated

High-speed mobile connectivity at the airport will be central to missioncritical performance. Airports will increasingly run just-in-time operations, with automation and self-service making everything more efficient. And connected, automated and autonomous vehicles and robots are set to become commonplace throughout the airport.

Automation will also enable more efficient sharing and use of assets. A wide range of objects – from baggage or aircraft tugs – will be connected via 5G networks, providing massive amounts of data, offering real-time, predictive and historic views of airport operations.

The airport will adapt to passengers’ needs

The fast and frictionless journey to, and through, the airport will make some current revenue streams, for example, parking, weaker or obsolete. Airports will, therefore, need to find new ways to augment the travel experience to replace them. Personalisation will be the key, providing passengers with what they want, when they need it at any point throughout their journey from start to finish, not just at the airport. Examples could include an airport-provided limo service comprising bag check-in at your home, office or hotel, and fast-track approvals and facilitation for regular travellers.

Mobility will be a service on demand

Airports will become giant flying ‘park and ride’ centres, providing access to a wide range of transport options. Innovations such as air taxis will be emerging by 2030 to provide much more efficient transport to and from the airport. They may even provide competition on short-haul routes making air travel possible for everyone.

There will be an API for everything we do at the airport

Since tomorrow’s travellers will be digital natives, people who run the airports will also need to be digital natives. This technologically-literate environment will result in airport complexity being sliced into a set of data services that can be shared as application programming interfaces (APIs). It will provide an ecosystem that enables collaboration and innovation, which is easier for everyone to use. For example, AI and new syntaxes will enable requests of industry-specific insight in human terms: ‘Is there a pink bag as a carry on at gate B34?’ or ‘The line at arrival concourse A is too long, send more taxis’.

The future of airports lies in connected, highly-intelligent and efficient operations that offer passengers painfree and frictionless travel and rich, personalised experiences. Today’s blockages and operational silos will dissolve, resulting in data-sharing based on digital trust, shared assets and realtime calculations from AI. We’re entering a golden silicon-infused era for air travel. However, it’s essential the industry acknowledges the need for change and collaborates. These technological shifts will happen, and will happen faster than we think.