One industry which has been hardest hit due to the Covid-19 outbreak is hospitality industry, which includes the airlines as well. Due to its very nature that it can silently cause infection which can remain asymptomatic for many days and which can be deadly, all such economic activity which requires person to person interaction has been halted world over for over weeks. Nations have imposed lockdowns, people are required to self-isolate and quarantine and strict laws have been enacted to implement the same. People have been asked to observe self-hygiene, wear masks, do social distancing and take all steps necessary for prevention of spread. Quite naturally, economies have been hit hard. Demand has dropped worldwide. Confidence of the people in person-to-person interactions has shaken. All avoidable interactions will be avoided. The same will also remain true for the airlines.
There is a big question mark over how the people will behave when it comes to taking a flight. The airline will have to do much to inspire confidence among the people. This will take some time but our creative ad agencies are capable of sending the right communication through mass media. However, in addition to spreading the right messages, the airlines will have to prepare the ground work in the changed circumstances. It would be for their own benefit to make the changes as business is not going to be usual for a long time. The new normal will have to be set. In future, those airlines will be preferred for travel which prove to be best in terms of providing safety against virus and infections.
Airlines will not be alone in setting this new normal. Airport authorities have to chip-in as well. Passengers first arrive at airport. There are certain common facilities which airport authorities provide. Whether it is the parking lots, waiting lounges, restrooms, lifts, escalators, shops, check-in kiosks, ATM machines and other areas, airport authorities have to step up infection prevention.
FOUR MOST IMPORTANT CHANGES
- Liberal use of sanitizers
- Mandatory wearing of masks by all-passengers, airport authorities, airline staff and everyone.
- Follow social distancing norms
- Reduction in usage of paper as far as possible
- Facility-level spraying of disinfectants
- Once a new car is parked, it shall be sanitized.
- Trolleys for carriage of baggage shall be sanitized after every use.
- Wearing mask compulsory from parking lot itself. Entry to parking to be allowed only after ensuring that passenger and companion puts on mask.
- Provision to give masks right at the parking lot in case the passenger has forgotten to bring one.
- Sanitization of passenger hands.
- Social distancing for parking cars (markings for car parks).
- Thermal scanning for temperature.
- Sanitization of trolleys and baggage.
- Downloading and activation of contact tracing mobile apps for respective countries.
- Thermal scanners for people entering or exiting airports.
Airport Common Areas
- Frequent sanitization and deep cleaning.
- Social distancing norms for seating or standing.
Check-in and Security Clearances
- Social distancing norms to be followed while in queues.
- Kiosks installed with thermal scanners.
- Countries might mandate “Covid-19 Free” certification before air travel.
- There might be introduction of Rapid Tests at airports, provided these have high level of accuracy. This might be a good way to avoid people getting quarantined mandatorily after arrival.
The cabin experience inside the airplanes is also likely to change in the wake of this outbreak.
- Car seats might come with a protective plastic or glass sheet that would keep two passengers seated next to each other separated.
- Passengers would be allowed to bring their own meals.
- Sanitizers might be provided on-board and the restrictions on personal carriage of these liquids inside cabin would remain as before.
- Pet travel might be restricted or curtailed in short term inside cabin and there might be a need of Covid 19 certification from the vet for allowing travel.
- There might be a revision of policies pertaining to special needs passengers as the high risk ones might not be allowed to fly.
- You might find cabin crew wearing protective gear or full suits made of protective clothing. AirAsia has introduced on as shown below:
(Disclaimer: The ideas expresses in this article are of the author himself. These may or may not be implemented by the airlines.)