BEIJING: China's civil aviation industry is accelerating its advance into the digital era, with major players sending clear signals of new opportunities worldwide.
Already this year, China Southern Airlines has started online seat selection for all domestic flights and paperless e-boarding passes, reports Xinhua.As well as being more convenient for passengers, it is a major step in responding to initiatives in environment-friendly travel. In the first week, about 75 percent of passengers on domestic routes opted to select their seats via digital devices, said China Southern.
Based in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, China Southern operates the largest fleet in Asia and the third biggest worldwide. In 2018, it recorded 139 million passenger journeys.
"The global aviation industry is at a crucial point. It is transitioning from an increment-driven market to one in which greater value and opportunities are being extracted from the existing market. And digitalization presents a crucial opportunity for China," said Yu Zhanfu, partner and vice president for Greater China at the Roland Berger consultancy.
Rising cost pressures and safety concerns are affecting the industry worldwide. Digitalization is seen as key to improving operational efficiency, upgrading services, and reshaping development modes.
"It is widely recognized that digitalization is a new value-growth point. Alongside dramatic growth in China's civil aviation sector, civil aviation authorities, domestic aviation manufacturers and technological giants are eying digitalization," said Xu Jun, vice president of Asia-Pacific OEMs of Honeywell Aerospace.
In January 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China(CAAC) issued its Assessment Guidelines on Personal Electronic Devices (PED). It was seen as an impetus to reshape the cabin experience with in-flight Internet.Since then, domestic airlines have been relaxing bans on in-flight mobile device usage and major domestic aviation manufacturers have been embracing the digital era.
At the 2018 China Airshow, Hainan Airlines announced a partnership with Honeywell that would see Honeywell supply auxiliary power units (APU) and aftermarket support to the airline's fleet, including its GoDirect connected maintenance services, a predictive technology based primarily on data.
With Internet-based predictive maintenance technology, APU maintenance and malfunction data is downloaded from existing data on the aircraft. It allows prediction of imminent hardware malfunctions or other potential problems with a high degree of precision.
The data is then relayed to maintenance crews in an intuitive and visual manner, helping them tackle malfunctions before they occur. This allows for proactive and more efficient maintenance.
In November 2018, the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group jointly launched the Wang Jian Large Aircraft Workshop, an initiative to explore the use of intelligent manufacturing technology in passenger aircraft. COMAC is the developer of China's C919 large passenger airplane.