When are we going to be able to fly freely is yet unknown. But one thing is clear: the flying experience will be extremely different from everything we’ve seen before. Adapting to the “new normal” after the massive worldwide spread of the Coronavirus will take much time and effort, but it will eventually be the key to the gradual recovery of the whole aviation industry. From strict hygiene measures, mask-wearing and pre-flight health checks, to sanitation of passengers and luggage and seat reductions – we are ready to welcome a whole new era of air travel.
Although the number of scheduled flights globally is still down by 73%, according to OAG, there are noticeable capacity returns in some markets, like Asia and Europe. As the lockdown is going to ease the industry is thinking of ways to rebuild confidence and rethink the safety of passengers. Similar to the security changes implemented after the 9/11 attacks, both airlines and airports will have to completely change the way they operate flights by introducing new standard protocols and passenger’s obligations.
But what exactly is going to change and how will it affect each and every one of us? Let’s dive straight into the predictions about post-corona air travel:
1. Higher airfares and fewer seats
The new “rule” of social distancing presumably requires a huge seat reduction. Airlines like Delta Air, Wizz Air, or the Emirates are leaving the middle seat empty to maintain a physical distance between passengers while on the plane. This will allow only half of the available seats to be booked, meaning that airlines would be forced to increase prices. Another option introduced rather by low-cost carriers would be to allow people to book as normal but offer them an up-sale option to guarantee themselves that the middle seat won’t be occupied. In both cases, passengers could expect a drastic rise in the airfares, which might lead to the end of cheap air travel and the “10 euros plane tickets”.
2. Reformulating routes
As the aviation industry struggles to optimise costs, some short non-domestic routes might be excluded due to non-profitability. Not only will passengers have to choose between fewer airlines overall, but between fewer direct destinations. Some unpopular routes will be hard to get because of frequency cuts and expensive tickets. Non-stop routes will now require flexible connections, which will lead to longer layovers. According to OAG data experts, it could take a couple of years before the aviation returns to its state from 2019.
3. Immune passports
Before Covid-19 passengers had to bring just an identification document to prove their identity. Now you would certainly need more than just a passport. The future of air travel may also include some kind of health or immune passports, showing the presence of antibodies after a successful recovery from an infection or proof of immunization when vaccines are available.
4. On-place health checks
According to the SimpliFlying’s report “The rise of sanitised travel”, passengers would need to go through disinfection tunnels (similar to those tested at Hong Kong International Airport) or undergo temperature checks to determine if they are “fit to fly”. Travellers that aren’t feeling well or show any signs of sickness won’t be allowed on the airplane. Furthermore, some airlines might carry out on-place blood tests for real-time health results. This extended check-in process means more time for departure and overall more time for the whole flying experience.
5. New standards for carry-on luggage
SimpliFlying also foresees that bags will go through fogging or a UV disinfection process to be then classified as “sanitagged”. Some experts argue that especially in the initial phase of the aviation’s recovery carry-on luggage might be entirely prohibited. Since hand-washing and disinfection are already becoming a must, we might also experience some relaxing of liquid carry-on restrictions.
6. Elimination of all touchpoints
In order to minimize all possible touchpoints, airlines will need to fundamentally change the way they operate the actual flight. We might not experience the serving of hot multi-course meals in first-class flights any longer. Instead, flight attendants will hand over pre-packed meals to prevent the spread of viruses. SimpliFlying predicts that seat-back pockets will remain empty, meaning that this would be the end of the in-flight magazines and paper-based safety instructions. To replace them, airlines would possibly propose different ways to use your own device for all purposes.
7. In-flight sanitation crew
Airlines would be potentially forced to hire specialized flight attendants or caretakers to explicitly look after high-touch areas like lavatories, seat handles or aircraft’s fold-out tables and make sure they are cleaned and disinfected regularly. New standards and job requirements for the whole cabin crew will ensure passengers’ confidence and safety.
8. More delays due to higher turnaround time
Airlines will no longer be able to make speedy turnarounds and prepare for the next flight in less than an hour, as dedicated deep cleaning procedures after every flight will become obligatory. This will inevitably lead to more flight delays and even possible changes in the flight delay compensation regulations.
9. Quarantine testing camps
Upon landing, travellers will be expected by immigration officers to be transferred in dedicated quarantine testing camps for additional health check-ups. This could lift up the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers proven negative for highly contagious viruses and sicknesses.
10. Flexible tickets will become the norm
There will be new opportunities for airlines to drive additional revenues as passengers would need to pay for more flexible tickets including free rescheduling of flights or travel insurance packages in case of denied boarding оr necessary health checks.