A post COVID-19 world will definitely look different, not only from the way we function, but also the way many industries undergo a change in realising that they could now have a ‘new normal’.
The airlines industry is one such. Having faced the brunt of sealed borders, literal ban on international and domestic flying across most countries and a customer base that is scared of traveling – this industry is experiencing its biggest crisis; bigger than 9/11 or any of the previous recessions.
Post COVID, the entire process of flying could undergo a change. From check-in, to social distancing, sanitisation of passengers and luggage, space allocation and waiting time – the methodology to make flying a safe method, needs to be thought through critically.
What to expect in the future?
Digital Technology –
All processes in the future could be automated. Touch points could be drastically reduced. Biometric boarding could become mandatory. Facial recognition could be the so-called boarding pass and exclusive use of online check-ins along with contactless payments could be started.
Restrictions on entry –
Saying goodbyes will now be passé! Except for fliers, no one could be allowed to enter the airports, except for people who need medical assistance or minors, for which the authorisation process could be stringent.
Contactless check ins could prevail, along with a scenario wherein no cabin bags could be allowed. Cameras to scan before letting a passenger enter the airport. There could be a capping on the weight of luggage allowed. Face masks, surgical gloves, self-check-in, self-bag-drop-off counters, medical tests, on-the-spot testing and disinfection tunnels could be made compulsory.
Social distancing –
Within the airports, demarcated spaces to stand while in queues, capping on the number of passengers allowed in open spaces, shops and while entering the plane and transit buses, could be the norm.
Plexiglass/other protective barriers could be put at customer service counters, hand sanitation and thermal scanning to be done at different checkpoints.
Inside the airplane –
There could be blocked seats, electrostatic spraying, hostesses in protective gear and masks.
The middle seat could be kept vacant, though, in the long run, that would mean a huge loss for the airline industry.
Serving food could also be done away with, to avoid touchpoints. Hong Kong Airlines has decided to stop offering food altogether.
On Arrival –
Apart from thermal checking, International passengers may need to show some type of medical document that certifies that they are fine and tested.
Hand sanitizers, especially at the point of luggage pick up to be provided. More escalators for usage with distance outlined, less waiting period for luggage and cashless taxi points, could be the new normal.
Apart from this, IATA recommends temporary biosecurity ideas which are listed below –
· Temperature screening
· Boarding and de-planing processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew.
· Limiting movement within the cabin during flight.
· More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning.
· Simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers.
· When proven and available at scale, testing for COVID-19 or immunity passports could also be included.
Of course, no one can predict what the future would entail or if we would, if at all, get back to a pre-COVID scenario. But keeping in mind the present, if the aviation industry needs to bounce back, these will have to be some precursors to get them to fly again.