Many airports have already introduced measures to cater to essential travelers based on government guidelines – so they might sound familiar. These include between one and two-meter distancing at all times (excluding people who live together), hand sanitizers distributed throughout the airport, and efforts to spread passengers more evenly across terminals. In the US, the Transport Security Administration says travelers should wash their hands for 20 seconds – in accordance with official guidelines – before and after the security screening process. But, at Hong Kong International Airport, testing is underway on a full-body disinfectant device. This, the airport says, can sanitize users within 40 seconds, using sprays that kill bacteria and viruses on skin and clothing.
The airport is also trialing autonomous cleaning robots that move around killing microbes by zapping them with ultraviolet light. Similar robots have been tested in makeshift hospital rooms. Airports that have electronic check-in kiosks are encouraging passengers to use them where possible to avoid unnecessary interaction. Most will display posters that explain guidance measures and instructions throughout their buildings. James Thornton, chief executive of Intrepid travel group, says the process of passing through airports is likely to take longer because of stricter checks. “Just as taking out liquids and devices before going through machines has become the norm, so too will new social distancing guidelines, “he says, adding:” It’s possible we’ll see the introduction of an immunity passport. “Earlier this year, several airports announced they were introducing” thermal detection screening “in efforts to prevent the further spread of the virus overseas. However, the procedure divided experts on its effectiveness, as some people are said to be asymptomatic, and many airports will not be introducing it. Some have gone further, though, with Emirates offering passengers rapid Covid-19 blood tests prior to boarding at Dubai airport terminals. Emirates says the tests produce results within 10 minutes.
On the plane
As you take your seat, you’ll have to picture the usual smiles from the flight attendants, who will most likely be wearing masks. You might choose to smile back, but you’ll probably be wearing one, too – as more and more countries recommend their use. Your mind, meanwhile, should be at ease in the knowledge that most major airlines will have stepped up their cleaning and sanitation procedures, leaving your tray table, seat rest, and safety belt suitably disinfected.
Will this change the future of travel for good?
You might not have enjoyed the sound of that hypothetical overseas holiday. And you’re probably not alone. The fact is, more holidays in the future are likely to be taken at home.”People are likely to be traveling less internationally, what used to be called a staycation will change, and could become the norm,” Andy Rutherford, founder of UK-based tour operator Fresh Eyes, says. In the wake of the global pandemic, ship cruises, ski holidays and long-haul flights could lose their appeal, especially as the focus returns to green technology and ways to tackle the climate crisis, A recent survey by the International Air Transport Association found that 60% of people questioned would wait for two months before booking flights after the coronavirus is contained – 40% said they would wait for at least six months. Boeing, which has cut 10% of its global workforce in response to Covid-19, has said it does not expect air travel to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023.