15 ways air travel might be different in the future, from immunity passports to blood tests
- Travel has essentially come to a standstill: The TSA reported 90% fewer passengers in the air than this time last year because of the coronavirus.
- Airlines and airports are rethinking their health and safety regulations in order to get travellers flying again.
- As is already the norm in many places, face coverings will likely become mandatory on flights.
- Some experts predict the emergence of a social distance-friendly class, an in-flight janitor, and a document to prove immunity.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
While the coronavirus pandemic has all but devastated the travel industry, most experts agree that travel will rebound - it's just a question of when.
It's also a matter of how, as some experts predict a second, and even third wave of the coronavirus to hit, and don't expect a return to relative normalcy until 2021.
Airlines are scrambling to get travellers flying again, and both airlines and airports are rethinking their safety and health regulations to earn passenger's trust and avoid the virus' spread.
A report by airline strategy firm SimpliFlying predicts a whopping 70 ways in which air travel might be different post-pandemic. "In total, over 70 different areas in the passenger journey are expected to either change or to be introduced from scratch to restore confidence in flying after Covid-19," the report states.
Keep scrolling to see some of the most recent new procedures, as well as some potential future policies.
You might be required to take a blood test or nasal swab ahead of a flight, or upon arrival.
Emirates began administering Covid-19 blood tests to passengers departing from its hub in Dubai in April. The tests gave results within 10 minutes. While the test is not yet available for widespread use, Adel Al Redha, the airline's chief operating officer, said in a statement that they are hoping to "scale up testing capabilities in the future."
Hong Kong recently introduced mandatory Covid-19 testing for all arrivals, making it the first airport to do so, and Japan's Tokyo Narita Airport requires testing for passengers arriving from high-risk countries such as Italy or the US, though results are said to take up to two days.
Temperature checks might become the norm.
Air Canada was the first North American airline to say it will introduce mandatory temperature checks ahead of flights. This comes as part of its new CleanCare+ program, which will go into effect on May 15, and will also include a required health questionnaire, and an amenity kit complete with hand sanitiser.
CEO Calin Rovinescu said in a statement: "We have been a leader in progressively introducing new measures in response to Covid-19, such as introducing personal protective equipment for our employees and being the first North American carrier to require face coverings for customers. We are now the first airline in the Americas to administer pre-flight temperature checks system-wide."
Frontier Airlines followed suit, saying that it will require pre-boarding temperature checks for all passengers starting June 1, and London's Heathrow Airport also said it will begin experimenting with widespread temperature checks.
Etihad is trialing kiosks in Abu Dhabi that will monitor passengers' health, and in Puerto Rico, thermal-imaging cameras will sound an alarm should anyone with a temperature higher than 100.3 degrees pass through Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.
In the US, there is debate as to whether the TSA should start making temperature checks on passengers and employees mandatory. Airlines for America, a trade group that represents American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest, spoke out in favour of these checks.
However, as Business Insider's Aylin Woodward points out, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease says that between 25% and 50% of people who have contracted the virus are asymptomatic. That notwithstanding, even those who don't show any symptoms can pass the illness on to others, so the effectiveness of temperature checks remains somewhat unclear.
You'll probably have to cover your face throughout flights.
Since masks have become mandatory in public in many places, it comes as no surprise that most airlines are also making wearing them compulsory for passengers. In fact, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends mandatory face coverings for both passengers and crew.
Forget crowded lines — you could start getting texts telling you it's time to board.
Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that lines to board planes could be around half a mile long with social distancing measures in place and that airports don't have enough space to implement this.
The New York Times reports that to combat crowded lines, "cellphone location data may cue your arrival to an airport, which can then check you in curbside and move you on to a security tunnel in which passengers continue moving - sci-fi style - as they are screened by TSA and health authorities."
According to The Daily Mail, passengers may receive text messages when it's their time to board, thereby eliminating the need to stand in line.
Flying could get more expensive.
While some experts predict lower fares as airlines try to entice flyers, a press release by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) anticipates fares rising by up to 54% in some places due to social-distancing measures with fewer seats available to sell. According to the IATA, social-distancing measures would reduce planes' maximum load factors to 62%, when most airlines need their planes to be 77% full to break even.
Airplane design could fundamentally change.
Italian design firm Avio Interiors put forward renderings that posit a potential solution for keeping flights full while minimising passengers' exposure to each other. Its "Janus" design reverses the middle seat in each row of three, and includes transparent dividers that shield passengers from one another.
Instead of redesigning plane interiors entirely, Florian Barjot, an aeronautical engineer from France, created "PlanBay," a removable shield that can be placed on middle seats that protect passengers both from behind and from neighbouring seats.
A social distance-friendly class may emerge.
Ross Dawson, author and futurist, previously told Insider that he believes that people will be "highly sensitised to the risk of a pandemic," and foresees airlines having to step up their precautions, including possibly offering various degrees of distance between people. He even predicts the rise of a new kind of plane class that he somewhat jokingly refers to as an "isolation class," which could be anything from seats with dividers between them to small rooms as we have seen in some airlines' first-class cabins.
While short-lived, we've already seen the idea of paying extra for social distance when Frontier said it would begin charging $39 for a guaranteed empty seat next to your own. However, the initiative was dropped only days after being announced after drawing considerable criticism.
Full body disinfection booths could become commonplace, maybe even cleaning robots.
Hong Kong International Airport is already testing booths that are said to disinfect people from head to toe in 40 seconds thanks to an antimicrobial spray, as well as cleaning robots that use an ultraviolet light steriliser as well as an air steriliser to disinfect public spaces.
Bags may need to get sanitised separately.
SimpliFlying foresees luggage going through its own fogging or UV disinfection process prior to being loaded onto planes, which it dubs "sanitagging."
Both terminals and plane cabins could become contactless.
In an effort to minimise touchpoints, SimpliFlying predicts that seat-back pockets, which they say have been found to be the second-most contaminated spots on planes, will be left empty, or could be removed entirely.
Touchscreen entertainment systems may be replaced with various ways to use your own devices to enjoy in-flight entertainment.
"To replace the in-flight entertainment system, airlines might just ensure that a USB and power-outlets are available at every seat and that some form of device holder or stand is available," the report suggests.
At airport terminals, SimpliFlying sees a rise in touchless kiosks (similar to those being trialed by Etihad in Abu Dhabi) that can both check passengers in and test their health, or a fully biometric check-in and immigration process based on facial recognition, which is already widespread at terminals with international routes.
Hot meals may be a thing of the past.
Many airlines are currently either cutting food service entirely or switching to cold and pre-packaged meals. Instead of getting cups of water refilled, passengers will get their own bottle at the beginning of every flight to decrease touchpoints, according to SimpliFlying, which also suggests that passengers may begin buying their meals at touchless vending machines pre-flight.
In-flight janitors might become part of cabin crews.
SimpliFlying brings up the possibility of in-flight janitors whose job will entail regularly cleaning the lavatories and any other "high-touch" areas during flights.
Plexiglass shields might become ubiquitous.
Plexiglass shields between customer-facing airport employees and passengers have been recommended by the US Travel Association. These could become the norm everywhere, from check-in desks to shops and eateries.
You might need to show ID, as well as some sort of immunity document or health certificate.
Thailand is already requiring passengers flying in from certain countries to present health certificates that deem them Covid-19-free before they can board flights to the country, and the IATA has suggested something similar, proposing an "immunity passport." SimpliFlying compares these to the Yellow Fever cards passengers must show ahead of travelling to certain regions.
You may have to get to the airport even earlier.
As both bags and people may need to get sanitised, and health checks become the new normal, the process of checking in and boarding might start taking longer. "People may be required to show up four hours prior to departure depending on the specific airlines, airports, and procedures," SimpliFlying predicts, adding that families with children and the elderly will likely be most inconvenienced, and that this may prompt business travellers to drive or take the train instead.
Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.
Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa:
- Covid-19: All the financial help and information you need
- Retail, e-commerce rules may be relaxed soon, Ramaphosa says – but details still to come
- SA’s odd authorised list of Level 4 clothes: no balaclavas probably, but definitely no flip-flops
- African swine fever hits SA: What you need to know
- Car theft, hijackings on the rise – but still 35% lower than before lockdown, says Tracker
- It could take the SA economy at least 6 years to recover from Covid-19, according to a new estimate