How the aviation industry is weathering COVID-19 turbulence

How the aviation industry is weathering COVID-19 turbulence

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read July 2020 — Summer this year is drastically different. Instead of hopping on planes to visit friends and family or finally embarking on that European adventure, the majority of frequent travelers are staying put, at least for the time being. It started to become apparent around the second week of March that the novel coronavirus would have a severe impact on the air transport industry. Even some of the busiest airports like Philadelphia International are feeling the weight of uncertainty. Nevertheless, the aviation industry continues to push forward. New air travel innovations have emerged and some airlines have even rediscovered ways to use their aircraft as they weather the turbulence. 

Greater Philadelphia is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States and is located in the middle of one of the largest catchment areas with passport holders spanning from South Jersey all the way to New York, according to PHL CASRIP.  Philadelphia International Airport is the only international airport that not only serves Philly but the northeast region as a whole. Just last year, the PHL welcomed more than 33 million passengers. It was the largest amount of traffic the airport has ever seen and what makes that figure even more impressive is that fact that there are 29 other airports within a 50 mile radius. So while it may take years for the airport to return to those 2019 levels, there is still hope for air transportation. On July 16, American Airlines and JetBlue announced their strategic partnership that will create seamless connectivity for travelers in the Northeast. This will help to provide more choices for passengers across their complementary domestic and international networks.

Our innovative partnership will allow us to compete in the New York market where American and JetBlue have traditionally been third and fourth. This partnership will allow us to coordinate schedules so we can provide customers better connectivity, capitalizing on JetBlue’s strengths in the New York market and American’s strengths as a long-haul carrier. Ideally, we envision a time where our passengers can travel into New York on JetBlue and connect with American Airlines for a long-haul flight out of JFK. So it opens up a tremendous amount of new markets to both JetBlue and American customers, complementing our trans-Atlantic gateway in Philadelphia,” Jim Moses, vice president for American Airlines PHL Hub Operations, told Invest: Philadelphia. 

Forming strategic partnerships with the competition is just one way airlines are navigating the pandemic. A majority of aviation companies are also adjusting their travel schedules, waiving ticket alteration fees and offering flights at a much lower fare. When it comes to cleanliness airlines are making sure to broadcast their meticulous efforts. Major U.S. airlines like Delta, American, JetBlue and United are in close contact with health agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to make sure their guidelines for cleaning their aircraft cabins are up to par. 

As for Philadelphia International Airport, customers and employees are required to wear marks. Their TSA screening process has been modified to protect passengers and new touchless check-in technology has started to emerge. PHL also launched an initiative that offers airlines financial stimulus to encourage carriers to fly to certain destinations and to expand their cargo services. “PHL believes that this rapid injection of relief and growth will jumpstart the entire airport ecosystem, thus benefiting the Philadelphia region,” Stephanie Wear, director of air service development and cargo services, told Airport Experience News. “From concessions to ground transportation to tourism and commerce, the halo effect of increased air travel will create immediate wins for all airport stakeholders.” 

How Orlando is improving its transportation infrastructure through technology

How Orlando is improving its transportation infrastructure through technology

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read  — Public transportation is a vital contributing element to urban sustainability. Practical transportation networks that integrate public travel can help lower a city’s per capita carbon footprint. It also makes metropolitan areas more livable by easing commute times and expanding accessibility. Over the last few decades, technology has played a critical role in the evolution of transportation. Transportation technologies most often tackle challenges involving alternative fuels, demographic shifts, traffic analytics, safety and security. 



Almost 300,000 people live in Orlando and an estimated 75 million people visit the city every year, according to Visit Orlando. These figures are just part of the reason why Orlando has issues with its transportation system. Among companies tackling these challenges is Omnimodal LLC, an interdisciplinary team of mobility tech experts that has created smart mobility management solutions to ease congestion by helping to make public transportation easier to navigate. 


“Let’s say you live over by Orlando Health, but you work in Winter Park. You have to take a bus or catch a bike share to get to the [train] station. You’re having to possibly download the Lynx bus tracker app. You have to download whatever scooter or bike-share app you want to use. Then you have to download the SunRail app. They all possibly have separate payment interfaces as well. The future here is how do we integrate things to let folks download whatever app they want? Let’s allow the data to flow and have interoperable payment options, so folks use what’s going to work best for them. Otherwise, you have 16 apps on your phone that you’re kind of playing bingo with to figure out,” David Thomas Moran, CEO of Omnimodal LLC, told Orlando Business Journal.

Beep, a driverless and electric shuttle, is another company making big changes within Orlando’s transportation industry. The company uses key hardware and software to enhance safety, sustainability and mobility. Not having a human driver may seem like something out of a science fiction novel, but it is actually quite common and effective. Beep believes that its technology eliminates human error when it comes to driving. The shuttle is equipped with scanners, sensors and cameras that make its reactions similar to a human driver but without having to worry about the human distractions. As for sustainability, it’s electric-powered motor makes it extremely environmentally friendly. “Look at the passenger count we had, which was 14,000 riders, equivalent to 7,000-9,000 cars off the road. That starts to show the impact these vehicles can have in not only eliminating road congestion and removing or reducing parking requirements but also impacting safety,” Joe Moye, CEO of Beep, told Orlando Business Journal. 


As transportation continues to be transformed, safety will always be a top priority. Autonomous vehicles will reduce the reality of human error which is the cause of 85% of all accidents on roadways. Improved safety is a result when combined with a reduction of cars on the roadways due to this mobility service, according to Beep’s Mobility Platform. 


Undoubtedly, technology will continue to impact the way people commute. Today, travelers are demanding more and more mobility alternatives. A city’s sustainability relies deeply on the different ways it’s able to offer transportation for its community. To ensure a region’s success and growth, metropolitan areas must continue to find more effective solutions to increase the overall quality of their transportation services.


Spotlight On: Liz Babson, Director, Charlotte Department of Transportation

Spotlight On: Liz Babson, Director, Charlotte Department of Transportation

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — As Charlotte continues to grow, the Department of Transportation is looking at ways to improve and innovate its transportation system. The department has been keen on leveraging capital investment with private development to build a safe transportation network for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Safety is a top priority for the department heading into 2020, said Liz Babson, director of the Department of Transportation, in an interview with Invest: Charlotte.    

How has Charlotte’s transportation system kept up with economic growth in the past decade?


“Charlotte, like other major cities, is experiencing economic growth and is seeing the effects of that in its transportation system. We have seen congestion increase throughout the community. The city must look at multiple ways to solve and manage its transportation system. We put a lot of investment in transit and other transportation improvements and continue to manage  congestion. In the last decade, we have seen a shift in the way we look at transportation investment throughout the city, not just on the transit side but making sure we are connecting our networks, such as our walkways and bikeways, and giving people a choice when they travel throughout the city. We are making a major shift from traditional roadway projects and single occupancy vehicles.”  


What is the state of the transportation system in Charlotte?


“In the last few years, the state legislature was changed to reprioritize transportation investment throughout North Carolina. As a result, there is a tremendous amount of investment at the state level that is coming to Charlotte. Some $3.2 billion in state transportation investment is earmarked for this city. Those are projects that will improve the freeway systems throughout North Carolina. As your capacity increases in those facilities, it gives people more travel options to use Charlotte’s surface streets for local, short trips. We then have more capacity at the surface street level to improve the transportation system for cyclists and pedestrians.”  


How is the Department of Transportation working with the private sector to speed up projects in Charlotte?


“We work to find ways to align our capital investment to where we know new development or redevelopment is happening. The Camp North End project north of Uptown and the River District are good examples where we anticipated the type of development and redevelopment we want to see happen and set aside capital investment dollars to partner up with investors and developers. It allows us to see projects developed quicker. The challenge is finding equitable and balanced ways to do that. We have always tried to be strategic with our partnerships; sometimes the private side is faster and more efficient.”    


How is the Department of Transportation working with the community as Charlotte continues to grow?


“We are developing our 2040 Comprehensive Plan. We are engaging the community, elected officials and private partners in a way that we have not done before to look at how we want to grow as a community and how we will do that. We are engaging the community as we have those conversations, so they can understand the challenges and how we can work together as we head into the future. We are having those tough conversations in a meaningful way. This is an important undertaking for the city. It will be transformational for the city from an organizational structure and how we do our work and engage the community.” 


How is the Department of Transportation using technology to improve transit operations?


“We have close to 850 traffic signals and close to 350 miles of fibers that communicate with 90% of those signals. From one central location, we can change signal timing for the entire city. That fiber infrastructure also manages our traffic camera system, which is comprised of around 450 cameras located throughout the city. It’s a shared system. We work very closely with the police and fire departments. Together we can make on the spot decisions that improve emergency response times and help get the roads cleared faster when there are bigger problems. We have the infrastructure in place to test and implement new smart traffic technologies. We are looking at the possibility of leveraging the connected traffic system with people’s smartphones to share information from the traffic signal operations with pedestrians who want to know when the bus is coming or commuters who want to know when the traffic lights will change. Those are the kinds of things we are starting to look at.”  


What are the Department of Transportation’s priorities heading into 2020?


“We are working to do road projects that are transformational, as well as small, safety improvements to expand our safe and efficient transportation system for our cyclists and pedestrians. We are a Vision Zero city and are working toward no deaths or serious injuries on our streets by 2030. The goal allows us to take a data-driven approach when it comes to capital investments. We are continuously looking for opportunities to leverage private development with capital investment to build a safe transportation network. There is a real intentional focus to improve the safety of our cyclists and pedestrians.”  


To learn more about our interviewee, visit: