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.