One of the ways in which COVID-19 is changing the world of work — at least for office and knowledge workers, a substantial part of the workforce — is through hybrid working patterns, where staff split their time between their office and their home office.
The concept behind hybrid working is that a worker spends two or three set days in the office, and then three or two set days working from home, saving themselves some commuting time and, because they can share a desk with another staff member, saving the company roughly half the required office space.
It will also drive new ways of travelling, and passenger aviation will need to serve three key sets of times, days and patterns of travel: hybrid commuting travel, short-term business trips, and hybrid on-location business trips.
Let’s take a look at single-night or two-night commuting travel: people getting up early Monday morning, travelling to their office location for Monday, staying overnight, working Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday in the office, and returning home for the second part of the week.
The reverse will also happen: people in the office for the second half of the week. And some offices may do Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday, or even work a ten-day cycle. Flexibility will be the watchword — for employees, for companies, and for aviation.
Next, on to hybrid on-location business trips: if an executive’s colleagues or clients are in a different city and using hybrid working, there’s a natural inclination to suggest working from their location for the in-office part of the hybrid week.
It seems likely also that there will be a midweek spike in business travel, traditionally the low point in travel demand across the week, as commuting travellers and those on short-term business and hybrid on-location trips depart and/or return.
For aviation, the demands will be dynamic and may well be structural — and there are many questions that arise.
For a start, schedules will need to be rethought in order to be able to capture the early morning commuting pattern to work and the late evening commuting pattern back home, two or three days later. Does this mean that more aircraft will sit overnight away from their hubs?
Many of these travellers will be commuting self-funded, so will be particularly sensitive to price — but also to punctuality. Low-cost service will be a must, but how will people judge cost versus on time, every time?
These travellers will likely want to make the most of their time on board, so they will value seating that allows them to either use a laptop or tablet, or at the least the availability of extra-space seating that enables them to do so. How will airlines ensure that they serve this market?
And there’s also something about the class of traveller found on board. A tired exec commuting home last thing on a Friday wants a very different experience than a group of people heading off for a party weekend, say, so how can airlines ensure that they serve both markets well?
At the airport, how will effective, efficient and low carbon impact ground transportation be provided — whether that’s kiss-and-fly spaces to allow a spouse or car service to drop the passenger off, electric car charging parking, or a wider range of bus, train and other options?
Inside the terminal, how will airports, and indeed airlines, modify the space to serve these passengers? How can they provide — or provide space for airlines or independent lounge/workspace/service operators to provide — areas that mean airport time isn’t wasted time?
And how else can airlines, airports, suppliers and the rest of the #PaxEx ecosystem best serve this changing world of business travel?
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Featured image credited to Finnair