1. Air travel is starting to climb back up. With the highest numbers reported over the weekend than we’ve seen in months. What trends are you seeing as people start to think about booking air-travel again and how are the airlines responding?
I think inevitably people will be prioritizing travel – including air travel – to see family and to make the most of the summer. Given that most international travel is still suffering from restrictions, domestic travel is obviously going to be more popular. We know that both major and low-cost carriers in the U.S. are bolstering their summer service offerings. American Airlines for example is gearing up for summer by restoring 55 percent of its domestic schedule and almost 20 percent of its international schedule in July 2020, as compared with last year. The airline also announced on Friday that it will no longer be capping the number of seats sold on flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. The costs can be appealing to travel addicts. Have we reached a point where people are starting to plan trips for months out with the hope things will continue to pick back up?
Yes but this is also dangerous. There is still so much unpredictability around the virus, so when it comes to planning ahead – particularly if you are looking at any non essential international travel, I would hold off as long as you can. I think a lot of people learnt the hard way in the past few months, that cancellation and rebooking policies can vary and be stressful to handle. Speaking of which, I would also suggest looking at travel insurance policies when it comes to planning for future travel. It can make a huge difference in the long run.
3. Let’s talk about cruises… most have now been canceled through the end of September. This industry has taken a big hit. Should bargain hunters roll the dice, take advantage and book cruises this fall and winter or do you think it’s going to be stalled until 2021?
I personally think that booking a cruise this year is both financially and medically very risky. Only weeks ago we were talking about the 40,000 cruise ship workers stuck at sea because of concerns about the coronavirus. Everything that you may be concerned about with flying, is heightened on a cruise. It’s hard to predict in those situations how much you’ll be able to socially distance from other passengers and employees – even if cruise lines make efforts to minimize close contact. Eating and drinking in a confined space presents its own challenges too – the more you’re around unmasked people with uncovered noses and mouths, the riskier it gets. In my opinion, comparing of all modes of transport, this should be your last option.
4. When we had you on last time, early in May, you predicted road trips were going to be the theme of the summer. Are we seeing that play out?
Absolutely – mainly because driving allows people to choose WHO they travel with and allows them more control over the situation. Like I have said before, if you’re able to keep a safe, six-foot social distance from others in rest areas, wear a mask, and practice good hygiene, there is little risk since the coronavirus is thought to be mainly transmitted directly from person-to-person. Just avoid stopping at crowded rest stops if you can, wash or sanitize your hand regularly and be sure to use a glove when pumping gas. Also have a strategy; think about exactly where you’re planning to go, how you’re planning to get there, and what you will do once you arrive. Because all 50 states are reopening at different rates, be sure to factor that information into your choices.
Traveling by airplane is arguably a higher risk than traveling by car –air travel is full of opportunities for coronavirus transmission. And yet despite the travel industry seeing a drop in demand amid coronavirus- air travel reached a new high over the past weekend, with more than 2 million people passing through airports between Thursday and Sunday (according to a report by the Transportation Security Administration.) So what does the future of air travel look like for us amid COVID-19 and can we actually fly safely?
1. What measures the travel industry is taking to prevent the spread of the virus at airports and on planes?
Right now – mask wearing is being enforced, and measures like cue markers and plexi glass shields are helping to minimize the spread within the airport. Once on the plane currently most airlines will have masks and sanitizer available – and electrostatic spraying will be done prior to every departure. In future we may even start using facial recognition technology taking over manual ID checks. We’ve also heard that when the middle seat does return, it may be with dividers, or facing the other way
2. Will airports and airlines actually invest in these kinds of measures, and can they afford to operate with them in the long run?
Yes,there are brilliant airlines out there who have begun implementing some extremely innovative initiatives. Etihad Airways for example – which is an international carrier that is CURRENTLY flying from Abu Dhabi to 29 destinations worldwide – has started implementing what they call The Etihad Wellness Program- an online guide used to set standards of hygiene and health. Once certain travel restrictions are lifted, Etihad will also introduce Wellness Ambassadors on board, to answer any questions and provide that enhanced level of care focused on in-flight health and wellness. In the long run – airlines will have to figure out their budgets but I think measures like this are set to become the new norm of flying.
3. What about technology and travel apps – how are they helping?
Predictability and preparation are now key travel factors. App in the Air, for example, which acts as a personal travel assistant that keeps you up-to-date with your flight, will be introducing In-App Health Filters so when you’re searching for future flights using the app, new filters will include whether a mask is needed, avoiding middle seats and free cancellations. The apps landing page will also provide weekly updates – on the countries you’re departing and arriving from, including government restrictions and airline and airport rules.
4. What about airports – particularly internationally, what are we seeing? In India, passengers have to show they have a CONTACT TRACING APP installed on their phones in order to enter the terminal. At Deli International Airport, luggage has to go through a UV sanitizing tunnel and at London Heathrow Airport they are running trials of temperature scans that look for travelers with a fever. Airports around the world are taking everything to the next level, and I believe these changes may transform travel and we know it for some time.