International Travel: A Comeback or an Illusion

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

The International Air Transport Association ( IATA ) is encouraging the mandatory use of face coverings for both passengers and cabin crew. Interestingly, IATA doesn’t support blocking the middle seat to maintain social distancing to avoid exaggerated airfare prices. IATA is citing studies that show a minimal risk of transmission of COVID – 19 on board. Blocking the middle seats will reduce the number of seats an airline can sell and ultimately affect their profit margins. Instead, IATA proposes the following:

temperature screening of passengers, airport crew and support staff

providing hand sanitizer dispensers

automated boarding, security and disembarking procedures that reduce interaction

limiting movement during the flight

intensive cleaning of aircraft and airports

catering that also reduces interaction

Just like the hotel and accommodations sector, different airlines and airports are implementing varied new procedures to handle future travel needs and concerns. Some are as follows:

1.Emirates Airlines is conducting on-site COVID -19 tests for passengers and issuing them with test certificates. The “customer is king” motto is making a major comeback with waiver policies, travel vouchers, and full refunds. Check-in is maintained at 3 hours but you need to bring your own face mask and hand gloves and maintain social distancing at Dubai International Airport. Laptops, handbags, briefcase, and baby items are the only things that can be checked in. Food and nonalcoholic beverages will be offered in new packaging specifications that minimize contact.

2. Qatar Airways is offering greater flexibility with ticket validity, unlimited changes, travel vouchers, ticket swaps for miles, and full refunds if necessary. Incidentally, Qatar Airways is giving away 100,000 free tickets to Health care workers. A smart marketing tool to prove to other travelers that Qatar Airways planes are indeed safe to fly in. Aircraft are equipped with industrial size HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that remove virus and bacteria from recirculated air. Aircraft, lounges, blankets, cutlery, and headsets are undergoing intensive sanitization. Passengers are screened for COVID – 19 symptoms at Hamad International Airport.

3. Lufthansa is requesting travelers to wear face coverings before reaching the airport, at the airport, and throughout their entire flight. Social distancing reminders will be set up throughout Frankfurt Airport. Any additional hand luggage will be checked in free of charge. Contactless boarding using the Quick Boarding Gates system will be utilized in addition to thorough cleaning and disinfection procedures of all aircraft.

4. Air New Zealand is allowing customers to check-in prior to arrival at the airport using their mobile app. High touch surfaces will be cleaned more frequently with staff ready to help. Social distancing markers will be set up throughout the airport as a constant reminder. Boarding will be done by zones to maintain social distancing while managing the seating arrangements which will be spaced out. Aircraft will be sanitized and have hospital-grade air filtration systems. Hand sanitizer will be more readily available. Upon arrival, you will be requested to remain seated until it is your turn to disembark.

5. Air Canada has come up with a comprehensive end – to – end program called CleanCare+ which includes the following:

face coverings for travelers and employees

sanitizing counters, kiosks and other high touch areas frequently

infrared temperature checks

cabins and overhead bins sanitized using an electrostatic sprayer

HEPA air filtration systems onboard the aircrafts

complimentary mask, gloves, sanitizer and disinfectant wipes

pre-packaged meals

adjacent seats blocked in economy class

6. Turkish Airlines is committing to a thorough cleaning of the inflight cabin, tray tables, armrests, seat belt buckles, inflight entertainment screen, and other shared spaces. Headsets and blankets are replaced with new sets for each flight. Flights from high-risk areas undergo a disinfectant fogging that has proven effective. HEPA filtration systems have been implemented. Medical disinfectants are readily available onboard and crew has been trained to handle any emergencies.

7. Southwest Airlines has developed a comprehensive plan called the “Southwest Promise” that covers the whole process from check-in to deplaning.

Electrostatic disinfectant and anti-microbial spray applied on every surface on board that acts as a shield for 30 days.

Disinfecting commonly used and high touch areas before every flight

Deep clean each plane every night

Plexiglas is installed at gates and ticket areas.

Employees have to use face coverings when interacting with customers

Gate areas, ticket counters and baggage claim areas cleaned more often

Hand sanitizer available at the airport and wipes are available onboard

HEPA air filters onboard the aircrafts

Limiting the number of people on board so the middle seat is left unoccupied

Customers can pick their seat but the first two to three and last two to three rows will be blocked

Boarding in groups of 10 and boarding from only one side

Travelers encouraged to wear face coverings

Download the mobile boarding pass before getting to the airport to reduce interaction

Arrive earlier to have enough time to complete all the necessary procedures

maintain social distancing at the airport and onboard

floor markers to remind travelers about physical distancing

snacks and beverages are not offered

Travelers are presented with amazing deals to lure them to travel again.

Travelers will definitely experience a better clean when they travel with more orderly and disciplined procedures being put in place but will this translate into more confidence to travel as often as we used to prior to the pandemic is something that we will have to watch closely.

Sources: IATA, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, Southwest Airlines


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