The world is under no illusion that air travel could look a whole lot different in the coming months post-COVID-19. But just how different will it get?
Middle plane seats empty
The chief executive of easyJet said when flying restarts after the coronavirus crisis recedes planes are likely to operate with the middle seat empty due to social distancing regulations.
“I’m talking about this as an initial phase. Nobody knows for how long that phase will be,” said EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.
Commenting on how social distancing on its planes would work, Mr. Lundgren said passengers would sit next to the window or the aisle in a three-seat configuration.
As Reuters reports, the low-cost Hungarian airline Wizz Air has made plans to fly jets only two-thirds full to allow more space between passengers (the airline is also looking into protective gear for passengers, so masks may become the in-flight norm).
Yesterday, we reported that Emirates had changed its health screening process to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The Middle Eastern airline has begun taking blood tests before passengers board aircraft to ensure that they are COVID-free. The airline is the only one in the world to be carrying out this procedure, but others may be tempted. Will this be a new norm?
As far as thinking about pre-flight blood tests go, it all sounds a bit extreme. However, the process is relatively simple. It’s also a relatively quick way to ascertain whether or not a passenger is infectious. For these reasons, pre-flight blood tests look attractive to airlines, and they do a lot to reassure passengers.
Another idea floated is that of an immunity passport. These documents would certify that the holder has been infected with coronavirus and has overcome it, having now developed the relevant antibodies to make them immune. It’s an interesting concept that does have legs, but how would airlines use it?
As a long-term strategy for regular service, it’s unclear how the immunity passport would work. However, the certificate, also dubbed the ‘CoronaPass,’ would allow those who have overcome COVID-19 to be some of the first to travel. In the not-too-distant future, therefore, the immunity passport could grant the passage of travel for some citizens.
Will boarding change?
Airlines like GoAir have been asking their passengers to board according to rows. It means that passengers are entering the plane from the back and are seated one row at a time from the front. This practice does require a little bit of effort. However, it’s similar enough to standard boarding practices.
Typically, airlines segregate passengers for boarding, but just not to this extent. If airlines still see the value in practicing social distancing, then seating passengers by rows is an easy enough procedure to perform. As a result, we could see our pattern of boarding change in the future.