Videoconferencing: A Major Threat to Business Air Travel?

A look at the videoconferencing industry and how a robust, state of the art system can pose a very real threat to the corporate air travel market.

Credit: WolfVision GmbH (see below).

Videoconferencing is a modern and extremely powerful tool businesses can utilise to connect nationally and internationally – and has seen absurd growth in light of Covid-19 lockdowns globally. I’ve teamed with Mark Beaumont, founder of specialist collaboration and communication company Infacom, to explore this fascinating industry and the potential effect it may have on the corporate air travel sector.

There are some obvious benefits for a company opting to use technology for internal communication: it allows for worldwide connection and decisions to be made instantaneously all over the world, cuts out time wasted travelling (which can be tiring and drain productivity), can allow for communication to be recorded seamlessly – and crucially, especially important for smaller businesses, cuts out the high costs of corporate business travel.

It is, however, a risky bet for businesses. If companies rush into it and don’t properly develop a solution which fits into their culture, it can result in sub-par meetings and potentially fail projects or even whole businesses. The key downside to it is that it’s simply not a ‘human’ experience. Online meetings are just not natural and as such can easily lose their flow as well as the interest and productivity of employees.

So what can be done to optimise the use of videoconferencing, and what threat does a robust collaboration solution pose to airlines? Making it natural as well as compatible with the business is a vital step. Removing any nuances in technology, implementing minimum standards and adopting a uniform standard for tech across the business can also make it a great success – and one which would drastically reduce (in some cases eradicate) a company’s need to travel.

Several technologies can work together to give a more ‘real’ experience and effectively bring online meetings to life. Nureva develop microphone ‘Mist’ technology allowing high-class, optimised audio aimed at giving crystal clear audio as if the meeting were taking place in person. As well as hardware, canvas software can bring a highly improved collaboration experience to an online meeting – allowing productivity, creativity and innovation within teams to be kept the focal point.

Infacom work to consult companies and help them to implement these technologies successfully – creating an effective and natural communication system, tailored to a business’s needs. They advocate an approach of ‘People, Process, Technology’ – understanding the people and culture of the business first, so that the solution can work with the company, not the other way around.

Credit: Matti Blume (see below).

It must be said that even with these steps up in hardware and software, business and corporate air travel may never be eradicated completely. Some perspectives and messages can potentially be lost in digital translation. Product design and creating supply chains for example is far easier to do in person, face to face. It can take strong leadership and effort to build relationships and real connections over videoconferencing.

The fact that the emotions of real meetings cannot be fully replaced is the main reason why we may always still fly on occasion. Meetings with people you’ve never met are difficult (to put it lightly) when online, and it is crucial that big money pitches and presentations are delivered in as real a way as possible.

So, what is the overall verdict? The videoconferencing sector clearly has astounding potential. If these modern and more natural technologies become common knowledge in the market (which they are likely to within the next 10 years) businesses may be far less likely to fly. While inevitably global corporations may always use traditional business classes, for a large amount of smaller to medium sized businesses flights may become far less frequent.

This could well lead to Frequent Flyer Programs becoming less lucrative, and with the likes of easyJet targeting the business traveller more and more, many may be willing to make the switch to low cost carriers and be more willing to sacrifice some luxuries for cheaper fares if it’s for a more one-off meeting.

One important point is that rushing into using a videoconferencing solution can cause failures and problems. With the many thousands of businesses suddenly utilising the likes of Zoom during the current lockdowns, in the short term a whole host of them may well be put off implementing actual robust and bespoke solutions which work for them. It will definitely be vital in the next decades for airlines to remain competitive, and to continuously be altering their product offering in a highly competitive corporate market which no longer includes only airlines.

If you enjoyed the article, don’t hesitate to check out my social media links below. Be sure to have a look at Infacom and the great work they are doing to bring videoconferencing to life.

In collaboration with:

Images used:’WolfVision corporate / telepresence & video conferencing application’ by WolfVision GmbH. View here. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. View license. Image cropped.

‘British Airways Lounge, Cape Town’ by Matti Blume. View here. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. View license. No changes made.

I'm an avid writer and airport fanatic. I'm currently studying Airline and Airport Management at Bucks New University and hope to work in airport operations in the future.

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