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  • Writer's picturePretty Little Wanders

Air Travel After COVID-19: 5 things to consider as a passenger

Updated: May 24, 2020

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives. With all holiday and travel plans cancelled, so many of us travel enthusiasts are already dreaming and planning future travel adventures. I know I certainly am! Once lockdown and isolation restrictions are loosened I hope to take a flight as soon as safely possible. I don’t know when this will be but I do know that the face of ‘normal’ travel as we once knew it, is likely to take a very different form, especially in the shorter term. I want to consider a few factors that might affect our air travel decisions.

Dreaming of idyllic getaways

1. Social Distancing

Like it or not, until a vaccine is found for COVID-19 social distancing is here to stay. Just as supermarkets have invested in social distancing campaigns, it is likely that both airlines and airports will follow suit to accommodate some form of social distancing. How exactly that will work in practice, is anyone’s guess. In an attempt to reduce crowds we may be looking at:

  • reducing waiting times at the airport (Delta Airlines already has a virtual queuing feature on their app)

  • boarding flights strictly by seat number

  • airport floor markings at security, check-in and boarding probably leading to long queues outside airports

  • occupying every other seat on a plane

Social distancing is here to stay

2. Immigration and Documentation

Three hours waiting at the immigration queue in Los Angeles has been my worst experience yet. But queues like these may well become the new norm. As countries gain control over the pandemic, they will want to ensure that no new cases of infection are coming from outside.

Immigration checkpoints (or even airport entrances) will most likely be equipped with heat sensitive cameras to detect fever (Etihad Airways has already announced self-service kiosks for this). Testing for COVID-19 may also be required before entry, this would mean queuing, getting tested, and awaiting results. A positive result could mean up to 14 days of quarantine upon entry. Are you likely to take this chance if you only have a week off from work for your holiday? In fact, Emirates Airline has already introduced a new program requiring passengers to be tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight and the UK has just announced that all passengers flying into the UK will be subject to 14 days quarantine.

Once a vaccine becomes available, as well as carrying a passport and visa you will most likely need to carry additional documentation such as a vaccination certificate (the same way we currently have vaccination certificates for meningitis, polio and yellow fever). Without this certificate you’ll probably be denied entry.

3. Aircraft Cleaning Procedures

Even before COVID-19, many airlines, especially budget airlines that have quick turnaround schedules, were notorious for having germ-ridden aircrafts. With a potentially deadly virus thrown into the mix, airlines will want to reconsider their cleaning procedures. As passengers, we might want to know about how thorough they are; what the airplane filtration systems are like; how clean and safe the air onboard is. I know I’ll certainly be wary of touching the in-flight entertainment.

4. Travel Insurance

Currently some insurance companies have stopped selling insurance and new policies may have far more limitations. The “cancel for any reason” option is rapidly disappearing from policies and even if it does remain, be prepared to pay an awful lot more for it. Not only will I be making sure I have insurance, for once I‘ll be carefully reading the small print.

5. Packing

We might want to add a few extra items in our carry-on luggage: hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes (to wipe down the in-flight entertainment screens, seat handles, trays), disposable gloves, face masks (and probably extra supplies in our checked-in luggage). Airports and other shops will most likely create ready to purchase ‘travel packs’ with these new ‘essential’ items.

In the short term I think the whole airport experience will be one of queuing and social distancing (at entry points, security, immigration, boarding and onboard the plane). If COVID-19 testing is required then that adds a whole new dimension to our choice of destination and ability to pass immigration control. Am I overreacting? I don’t think so, (after all, did anyone envisage a toilet paper shortage???) but only time will tell.

Still dreaming of getting away...

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