As the world seems to be easing out of strict lockdown measures and some form of travel seems to be possible once again, it’s worth asking, what will air travel be like after the coronavirus?
Of course, we will travel again, but it won’t be the same. Travellers will want to know if the plane is safe, whether they’ll be able to enter their destination country and figure out how to deal with a slew of new health and safety protocols.
What Will This Article Cover?
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the aviation industry pretty hard. There has also been a lot of debate if the relative quick reopening of air travel could turn out to do more harm than good. However, easing back into slightly more ‘normal’ conditions is to be expected. The question is—how do we do so, keeping safety as a priority? There is no doubt we will travel again, soon, for business and pleasure. So let’s take a look at how the air travel experience might change to make travellers feel safer.
Step One: Airfares Will Rise And Fall
An analysis from the Dollar Flight Club shows that while we may see an immediate increase in airfares when airlines open with limited capacity, this could be followed by a decrease by up to 37% through 2021 as there will be more supply than demand.
However, the future of airlines isn’t set in stone. In the long term, prices will rise again by over 27% as airlines will be slow in adding to their capacity while simultaneously retiring older airplane models (when demand will again outstrip supply).
Step Two: Touchless Travel
The most immediate change we can expect to see are airports and airplanes becoming largely touch-free. Even with the strictest cleaning protocols in place, basic contact such as check-in, security, and boarding still pose a significant risk of contamination for both travellers and staff.
So we could see robotic cleaners patrolling terminals, biometric identity verification, contactless check-in, and the use of hand gestures or voice commands to operate doors and surfaces.
Step Three: Health Passports
With no standard international agreements regarding borders and travel, health will be a priority to the air travel experience. Until a vaccine is developed, the focus will be on the risk posed by individual travellers. So airlines might require data such as travel history, health conditions, age and more. However, this also brings issues of data privacy to the forefront, which means that any such solutions should be transparent and secure.
One example we can see of this future of air travel has been the Chinese system of giving passengers colour coded QR codes (green, yellow or red depending on their risk level) and scanning people in at regular checkpoints along with temperature checks.
Step Four: On The Plane
Once on the plane, passengers can expect not to find in-flight magazines, headphones, food, and other difficult-to-sanitize products. These will likely be replaced with disinfectant wipes and masks, while cabin crews might be fitted out with personal protective equipment (PPE).
There has been some debate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) about blocking off middle seats versus wearing masks, so personal screens or visors may be developed.
Step Five: Arriving At Your Destination
Passengers may be asked to go through sanitisation procedures, such as walking through sanitising tunnels, being subject to thermal scanners and more, before they are allowed to clear immigration and customs. Checked bags, if allowed in the first place, might also require disinfection before being released from the cargo hold of planes.
Additionally, travellers can expect delays at their destination (whether domestic or international) where they might be asked to self-quarantine for a number of days before being allowed freedom of movement.
Can We Say What Air Travel Will Be Like After The Coronavirus?
It’s likely that the impact of coronavirus on air travel will be here to stay. Ultimately, whether passengers will feel comfortable enough to resume flying depends on their confidence in the safety measures put in place and whether or not airlines are adequately addressing their concerns. In an analysis of tweets by data consultants Fethr, it was found that “passengers are expressing their concerns and frustration around not knowing whether it’s safe to travel or how to protect themselves, and are unclear about what airlines are doing”. So, until this confidence is restored, we cannot truly say what air travel will be like after the coronavirus.