If you are wondering what air travel could look like after COVID-19, the answer is definitely “different”.
We are yet to know which airlines will be flying which routes and which services will survive. But the whole flying experience is very likely to change, from arriving at the airport terminal to taking off.
Removing middle seats, wearing masks, touch-free check-in and new sanitisation measures are all part of discussions about what air travel could look like in the future. Here’s some of the latest thoughts on what you could encounter next time you fly…
For the first time in Australia you will be able to check in without touching a thing. Avalon airport in Victoria will launch a touchless check-in service when it re-opens after travel restrictions are lifted.
Interaction with the check-in kiosk and bag drop is controlled by moving your head and the camera links that movement to a cursor on the screen. A passport scan is easily completed by holding the document in front of the camera. The new technology also measures a passenger’s vital signs, including temperature, respiratory and heart rates.
With this offering a safer, more streamlined and potentially more cost-effective check-in service, we can imagine other airports fast-tracking this new technology.
Waiting to board
Long queues for boarding aren’t going to work alongside social distancing. Layout changes expected to be tested include coloured grid areas to separate people and smaller waiting areas located further from the gate. Mobile phone notifications will be sent when it’s your turn to board according to rows.
There are also biometric scans available that will give you the once over while you’re waiting. These can verify your identity, and in the covid-19 climate that could be expanded to include your health history. It could also raise a red flag if you’re from a coronavirus hot spot. Airbus recently announced they are adapting their explosives sensors to detect biohazards and virtually smell coronavirus.
Taking health screening a step further, Emirates has introduced pre-boarding blood tests. The process is reported to be relatively quick and simple, but it’s probably more practical while less people are flying. Whether other airlines carry out blood tests or temperature checks could be decided by the availability of medical resources and reliability of the tests.
Take your designated seat
7B could be a seat of the past! Removal of the dreaded middle seat could be a coronavirus silver lining. It’s already being blocked on flights in America and other countries, but airlines are warning that’s not financially sustainable.
There’s also the question of social distancing without the middle seat. Aisle to window passengers are still within 1.5 metres and there’s only a short pitch between rows. One of the new designs being touted shows a middle seat facing the reverse direction. But facing the two people behind you and reconfiguring the cabin probably isn’t a viable solution either.
Another option is to install the Isolate module by London-based Factorydesign. It’s still in the design phase, but it’s an upright panel that clamps on an economy seat and could be placed on the middle seat.
Then there is Glassafe (pictured above), that’s been created by Aviointeriors to minimise contact between passengers. It’s deliberately designed to be easy to clean and allow normal use of the meal tray. The biggest advantage for airlines is that the shields fit onto existing economy seats.
Keep the isles and exits free
In preparation for welcoming back passengers, airlines are introducing new inflight safety measures. These include no queuing for toilets and restricting unnecessary movement in the cabins. Meal and beverage services will continue to be limited and there will be reduced contact with flight attendants.
Amenity kits are getting a Covid-19 makeover as well. From economy to first class, full service airlines are stocking kits with masks, sanitiser and disposable gloves .
A mask will drop from the ceiling
Let’s hope you are never in a position where you will see masks drop from the compartment above your head. Though it is likely you will see more face masks when you fly. While aviation authorities have yet to make masks mandatory during air travel, many airlines are prompting passengers and crew to wear face masks.
Mask may make us feel safer, but experts continue to question whether they are effective protection. Despite this, masks are being seen as the new flying etiquette. To give their passengers extra peace-of-mind, Qantas and Jetstar will be distributing masks and sanitiser wipes. It’s recommended that you check with your airline on their individual policies before you fly.
For now, we’re in a holding pattern until regular flights resume. Hopefully when the world is cleared for take off after COVID-19, we’ll see positive changes for the travel industry and sustainable safety initiatives that improve the flying experience for us all.