The travel and tourism industry is one of the sectors which had to face the brunt of closures and lockdown due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From soaring to an all-time high to plunging down into complete standstill, a lot has happened in two months. Millions of employees in the air travel sector – from those working in sales and services to those on the ground as marshals, hosts and mechanical staff, have all been affected with job loss. There are plenty of airlines that have to cut down on staff as their entire fleets had to be grounded for the last two months. It is not just the travel industry that is suffering, but passengers too. Many of the passengers who work abroad in different countries and planning to return home are still stuck in one place or the other. There are also people who lost their jobs but cannot return home, as air travel has almost entirely stopped across the world. Even at the dawn of May, light is still at the end of the tunnel and not within reaching distance. At this point in time, the future of air travel is still unknown, but it will most likely be pretty different from what it used to be. Let’s take a look into what we can possibly expect when traveling by air.
Bye-Bye to the Middle Seat
Social distancing is here to stay, and it is unlikely to see airlines stack up passengers in the same numbers as in the past. The easiest way to do this is probably by eliminating the middle seats from all the rows. It can either be taken off or used as a shared space for those on the window and aisle side. Such a step would ensure that there is adequate space between two people during a flight. Eliminating the middle seat can also help reduce the number of passengers in a flight, and thereby decrease person to person contact as well. Unless a vaccine, proven effective against the virus, is deployed, we can’t rule out possibilities of further outbreaks of the coronavirus. We must keep this in mind and maintain social distancing from the time we reach an airport.
Pre-Flight Medical Checkups
If you are a person who is notoriously always late at the airport when catching a flight, it would be best to start working on your punctuality. Leading airline Emirates has already introduced a blood test before one of their flights for all the passengers, and most of the other airlines will likely pick up on this. Such a trend also suggests that there could be even more medical checkups once full-fledged air travel returns (at least in the initial reopening months). Based on the popularity and passenger inflow of the flight you choose, this would mean that you would probably need to reach the airport well in advance to make sure you have enough time to do the tests and board the flight.
Don’t Forget to Bring your Health Card and Passports
Medical fitness is going to be a crucial factor for air travel from now on, and it will always be essential to keep an updated health card in possession. While thermal scanning seems to be an excellent alternative to confirm whether someone has temperature variation (the most common symptom related to fever), it could make things complicated, and cause unnecessary panic. There is also the possibility of more passengers being denied the right to fly even if they do not actually have the coronavirus. Thermal scanners are already available in airports, but it would probably take some time before they are readily available across all the airports. Updated health cards, on the other hand, provides a foolproof health status and saves time as well.
Spike in Domestic Air-Travel
Even though the initial response to coronavirus was less chaotic or worrying, it quickly changed when the disease started spreading like wildfire in Italy, Spain, and later in the U.S. as well. This, however, has introduced panic and anxiety among hundreds of people. It has also changed how people will select their travel destinations from now onwards. Checking out the impact of coronavirus in countries will be a norm for choosing a destination for future trips. We could also possibly see a rise in the number of people preferring domestic travel over international travel with hopes of avoiding any lockdowns in a foreign destination. You can check out some of the best deals for domestic travel (parking spots included) across the country here.
Hike in Airfares
The future of air travel, at least during the immediate future of reopening, would probably have airfares at a much higher price than what it used to be. A majority (if not all) of airlines have already been grounded indefinitely across the world, and there is a huge financial crisis across the entire air travel industry. Social distancing norms could also see aircraft with reduced seats (which means that airlines spend the same expense with less revenue). There could also be possible changes to refund policies of airlines with more companies preferring to give back vouchers instead of refunds for cancellations. However, customers are not impressed with the idea, and thousands of complaints have already been registered in this regard. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) even issued a second warning to airlines after receiving nearly 25,000 air travel service complaints in March and April about cancelation refunds. “The department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time.” U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.
And the Overall Changes
This is not the first time that the airline industry is being put into a depression. The same, if not worse, first happened during the 9/11 tragedy, and later during the SARS 2003 outbreak. In both scenarios, the airline industry recuperated and rebounded back to its feet, and we can still hope that it will be the same this time as well. However, changes are inevitable, and we are bound to see plenty of germophobic passengers obsessed with stacks of wipes and facemasks in the foreseeable future. The airlines themselves will also have to step up their game to assure passengers that their flights are safe and maintain proper hygiene. We could also be heading to a time where people would fall in love with nature all over again. A hike into the woods and mountains, or a day at the beach, sure brings back lots of memories, and the cravings keep getting worse with each passing day. Let’s hope the medical and science experts find a solution sooner rather than later.
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