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89% of Airline Executives Believe the Crisis will Fundamentally Change how their Airlines do Business

Barcelona, April 1, 2021

Assessment by Atmosphere Research Group for Accelya’s Air Transformation Lab puts resilience, creativity, and conviction on full display as airlines develop and execute strategies to return to profitability

Accelya, a leading global provider of technology solutions to the travel industry, has released ‘Airlines: A Path Back to Profitability’ – an objective, research-based assessment and report of commerce and retailing challenges and opportunities facing airlines today. The report provides insights on the views of airline leaders and makes recommendations that airlines can use to navigate the way to business recovery. The report is the culmination of a study conducted by Atmosphere Research Group – an independent, strategic market research and advisory firm focused on the travel industry – for the Air Transformation Lab, which Accelya launched in September 2020 to explore the current state of airline commerce and uncover perspectives on a profitable future for the airline industry.

Based on extensive qualitative and quantitative research, the report provides a sobering acknowledgment of the severity of the crisis according to airline executives, with 79% viewing the pandemic as the most challenging moment in their careers. In contrast, the report also notes that almost all airline professionals participating in the study (96%) believe the crisis has created opportunities for positive transformations to their business, particularly in the areas of commercial processes, commerce, and retailing technologies. 89% of airline executives believe the crisis will fundamentally change how their airlines do business over the next five years.

Among the findings are insights on the advantages of being leaner, less siloed organizations – the result of organizations being trimmed due to the pandemic. In particular, airlines are inherently better positioned to innovate, which will play a key role when business recovery begins. For example, although just 26% of executives considered merchandising/retailing to be extremely important pre-pandemic, 49% believe it will matter more during business recovery. The importance of innovation in offer personalization grew nearly 160% (from 19% to 49%) when comparing pre-pandemic perspectives to current views on business recovery. In addition, 18% more executives view innovation in dynamic/continuous pricing to be extremely important during business recovery compared to before the pandemic (from 33% to 39%).

“We view 2020 as the lost year for airlines, but far from being discouraged, we see airline leaders ready to make big, bold, and even unconventional moves to get back on track,” said Henry Harteveldt, President of Atmosphere Research Group. “Those airlines that are wise enough to take reasonable risks will be best positioned to advance their commerce and retailing and ultimately return to sustained profitability.”

The report highlights direct customer relationships, dynamic commerce, and data-driven retailing as high-potential strategies for revenue growth:

  • By 2023, airlines’ direct channels (digital and offline) will account for 56% of bookings – a 12% increase in just three years, and NDC will play a central role. Airlines that plan to use NDC (31%) have already negotiated agreements with some or all of their GDS partners to sell NDC content (flights and ancillary offers)
  • Dynamic and continuous pricing is the third most crucial revenue management priority for airlines after accurate demand forecasting and total offer management
  • 44% of airlines viewed data insights as extremely important to their strategic efforts prior to the pandemic. That viewpoint increases to 64% as airlines prepare for business recovery. However, a worrying point of note is that nearly half of all airlines surveyed (47%) believe inadequate data will keep them from fulfilling their visions of dynamically priced offers

“Being in the airline industry has never been easy, but it is now more challenging than ever. Success requires us to collectively bring fresh ideas, approaches, and innovations to the table. The flexibility to adapt to an increasingly dynamic landscape is also critical to growth,” said James Fernandez, Chief Commercial Officer at Accelya. “Now more than ever before, airlines need independent partners that understand the challenges they face and how to overcome them – with a laser focus on delivering value.”

Report methodology and approach

The Airlines: A Path Back to Profitability report is based on extensive research undertaken by Atmosphere Research Group. The research consisted of two core components: an online survey of 60+ airline executives from global network carriers, domestic/regional airlines, and low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers around the world; and confidential one-on-one telephone interviews conducted by Atmosphere with 10 airline executives from around the world.

The report features charts and graphics that highlight the online survey results, along with anonymized comments from the one-on-one telephone interviews, and relevant findings from Atmosphere’s syndicated consumer and airline industry research.

The Airlines: A Path Back to Profitability report can be downloaded here.

About the Air Transformation Lab

Following its acquisition of Farelogix, Accelya established the Air Transformation Lab to uncover the DNA of a profitable future for airline commerce. Accelya believes the airline voice must be at the center of both new thinking and technology to make that promising and prosperous future happen. The Air Transformation Lab is Accelya’s platform for this fresh thinking. It consists of a series of activities designed to explore the current state of airline commerce and the path to long-term profitability.

About Accelya

Accelya is a leading global provider of technology platforms, software, and services to the travel and transport industry. Accelya has been delivering business-critical financial, commercial, cargo, and analytics solutions for more than 40 years. The company has over 250 airline customers, operations spread across 9 countries, and employs 2,500 professionals worldwide.​

Accelya offers a modular suite of technology solutions for air travel, from offer to settlement, solving critical business problems for airlines, travel agents, and industry bodies such as IATA. Accelya’s solutions are organized around customers’ key functions including commercial planning and optimization, sales and distribution management, and financial reconciliation and settlement. Paramount to Accelya’s success is the exceptional breadth of understanding of industry data which enables the delivery of insightful and reliable solutions that reduce process friction in a complex inter-dependent industry. For more information, please visit

About Atmosphere Research Group

Atmosphere Research is an independent, objective, and passionately unbiased strategic marketing research and advisory firm serving the global travel industry focused on the intersection between commerce and technology. In addition to client-commissioned research projects such as this report for Accelya, Atmosphere conducts proprietary market research among adult travelers in as many as 15 countries a year. Also, it surveys industry managers and executives about topics such as digital commerce, distribution, retailing, and loyalty. For more information about Atmosphere Research, we invite you to visit



Rose Fernandez
[email protected]