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What will post-COVID -19 aircraft flights look like?

What will post-COVID -19 aircraft flights look like? By Ahmed Haouaria

18 Mai 2020

While the airline industry is experiencing a drastic drop in turnover due to current containment, measures and compliance with physical distancing on airplanes are under consideration. To have an idea about the scale and extent of this crisis, let us just take a look at the numbers. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), In the first nine months of 2020, there could be 1.12 billion lesser travelers compared to the same period in 2019. A fall of 67%. And according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the COVID crisis will reduce the sector's earnings by $ 314 billion in 2020. The current situation represents a veritable “cataclysm for air transport”. A crisis that has already made a first "victim", the British company Flybe having filed for bankruptcy in March 2020.

Nevertheless, a glimmer of hope for the sector is here, with the deconfinement announced in several countries and, probably, a relaxation of travel bans. But to avoid further contagion, governments want to combine this takeover with new physical distancing rules both in airpaorts and inside the aircraft.

Changing travel habits a must for sustainability post COVID

Given some of the changes that have already taken place and many other recommendations before airports can safely reopen trade routes, experts call the coronavirus pandemic "new terrorism", unleashing the biggest crisis in the airline industry never knew. All over the world, putting people first is essential.

Let's start with the whole flight check-in process, some of which calculates that it could take up to four hours with physical distancing, sanitation of passengers and baggage, wider spaces for different queues, and waiting for boarding.

According to Forbes Magazine, Nine in ten experts expect the frequency of flights to slow due to the need for full cabin cleaning and compliance with airport hygiene and sanitation.

In the short term, however, it is expected that the reduction in passenger numbers and the fact that airlines offer fewer destinations may reduce delays.

What accurate changes to expect?

Among the possible measures envisaged: no cabin bags, no lounges at airports, no systematic upgrade, protective masks, surgical gloves, self-registration, self-storage of bags, immunity passports, on-site blood tests, and tunnels sanitary disinfection.

Digital technologies and automation will play a vital role in the future of air travel. The need to reduce human "points of contact" at airports implies the mandatory use of biometric boarding which allows passengers to board planes with only their faces as their only passport. Many airlines, including British Airways, Qantas, and EasyJet, already use this technology.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the "new standard" at major airports, such as Heathrow, JFK, and Singapore Changi, will include the almost exclusive use of online check-in and contactless payments.

Then there are the radical changes that airports will have to make, most likely starting with the complete ban on access to people who are not traveling by plane, except unaccompanied minors UM’s or special categories of passengers who need assistance.

After being checked in, baggage can also be passed through a fog disinfection tunnel. They must also delimit spaces of physical distance in the corridors, arrange larger spaces for queues, install Plexiglas or other protective barriers at customer service counters, hand hygiene points, and thermal scanners to check the body temperature of crowds, which are already used at some major airports. As far as food is concerned, the trend is towards a complete halt in service on short flights, while airlines are considering "simple refreshments" for long flights. Hong Kong Airlines has decided to completely cease its offer for food.

Strengthening of the protocol: Temperature control on arrival

At the point of arrival, SimpliFlying, the world’s leading aviation marketing consulting firm predicts, international passengers will need to present border control officers with some type of immunity document/passport, also advocated by the International Air Transport Association, IATA. Once a vaccine is found, passengers can move on to proof of vaccination.

Passengers on arrival will also be subjected to a new temperature check at their final destination and possibly even blood tests for COVID-19. Some airports like Hong Kong and Vienna test passengers for coronavirus before they are allowed to enter the country. These types of tests may, however, be of limited duration.

Defining new protocols and standards waiting for return of habitual modes

The sector will face a gradual return of travel standards in the coming months. Indeed, a "new normal" will appear before a vaccine becomes widely available, large enough to inoculate millions of people which is the big challenge. 

The new protocols and standards are being defined following reactions from associations representing the various travel sectors, notably the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the World Tourism Organization (WTO).

Dave CalhounIn, CEO of Boeing, says it's not just the small airlines that are at risk. He believes that at least one major US carrier will "most likely" go bankrupt because of the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with NBC News TODAY, he said "... something will happen as September approaches. The traffic level will not recover 100% of the activity. It will not even have returned to 25%. Maybe by the end of the year, we will approach 50%. So there will certainly be adjustments that will have to be made by the airlines. "

No mask? No access. The Canadian case

In Canada Passengers on all flights departing from or arriving at an airport must also show that they have the necessary mask at the time of boarding, otherwise, they could be refused entry to the sterile area from the airport or boarding the aircraft.Air carriers are responsible for advising passengers, when purchasing tickets at the counter or online, that they must have a mask or face cover during the trip, to avoid endangering the safety of others.Passengers are responsible for having the correct face-covering in their possession.A mask or face cover should comfortably follow the contours of the face to cover the mouth and nose, being attached to the head by ties or cords forming loops that are passed behind the ears. It should be easy to put on and remove if necessary, for example when verifying the passenger’s identity.While wearing a mask or face cover does not help protect the wearer, it is still an important additional measure that all travelers can take to protect those around them, even if they have no symptoms.

COVID uniforms for Air Asia flight attendants 

Before resuming its flights, the low-cost Malaysian airline Air Asia does everything to reassure its passengers. The company hired a stylist to design new cabin crew uniforms designed to block the new coronavirus.Finished, tailored suits and fitted jackets. Of the prominent uniforms that hostesses and stewards wore before the Covid-19 pandemic, only the red characteristic of Air Asia remains. The focus will be on safety, visors, masks, and gloves. This was the instruction transmitted by the low-cost airline which crisscrosses the Asian sky to the stylist of Filipino origin based in Los Angeles Puey Quiñones.Designed in a “breathable but robust material”, these uniforms with long sleeves, a visor, a medical mask, and a hood received the green light from the Philippine health authorities. The planes will also be fitted with “filters similar to those used in hospitals” and will be disinfected after each flight.After having grounded its aircraft for weeks, the company hopes to regain its activity level before the pandemic as soon as possible.

What about aircraft seat configuration?

While much of the aviation industry is on hold due to COVID-19, some companies are demonstrating ingenuity by adapting aircraft interior structure. They getting creative and using this downtime to reorganize their products and services to fit the situation. The Italian manufacturer Aviointeriors has designed two new aircraft seats which could well be the perfect solution to get safe at 30,000 feet while scrupulously respecting the physical distancing onboard. One of the two seating concepts includes a glass partition that separates passengers' seats from that of his/her neighbors while protecting the face. Its main selling point is that it is a reasonably cost-effective way to add an extra layer of protection among passengers close to each other. The second seat concept has a name, Janus, and it is much larger than any aircraft seat on the market today. The center seat has been reversed so that the aisle seat and the window seat are facing forward, while the occupant of the center seat is turned back. But, despite the somewhat strange aspect of the thing, the company writes in a publication, that the Janus seat "in fact allows the three passengers to be separated with a shield made of transparent material which isolates them from each other, creating barrier protection for everyone. As a passenger, when boarding, you will have to imagine the usual smiles of cabin crew, who will most likely wear masks. You can choose to smile back, but you will probably wear one as well, as more and more countries recommend or require their use. In the meantime, you should feel reassured knowing that most major airlines will have strengthened their cleaning and sanitation procedures, by properly disinfecting your table, seat, and seat belt.





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