The Aviation and Travel industry has taken an economic hit because of the COVID19 pandemic. The first few months were an economic catastrophe for many industries, but the Delta variant has put us in further measures of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
For the first time since global travel became a thing, close to 90% of people live in a country where there is some level of travel restrictions. Tourism, business, and global trade will have to make adjustments and will face significant challenges going forward.
Economic and health experts generally agree on one thing; when we can finally declare victory over the coronavirus, it's unlikely that travel and the aviation industry will look the same when we do get back to some level of normalcy.
VHR's Aviation specialists take a look at what will aircraft travel and tourism look like after COVID?
The travel industry will need to focus more on traveller's health and safety if they want to remain competitive. Travelers on planes, coaches, or cruise ships will put their health on the line whenever they book a seat or berth and will need to feel safe. Of course, this has always been the case, but COVID-19 may be lurking on any surface. Extra vigilance will be necessary.
Regardless of how much cleaning and disinfecting goes on between trips, there are still plenty of opportunities for a virus to jump from one person to the next. There are check-ins, border control, security points, and boarding to get through before boarding an aircraft, and each stage requires personnel to check documents and passports or handle baggage.
Touchless automation will play a significant role in how people are identified. Touchless biometric technology has already made significant inroads in the government and private sectors as fingerprint and iris scanners are phased out. We can expect more touchless document scanning and voice command technology to be integrated into data verification and collection points.
Integrated digital identity solutions will facilitate the new normal and help businesses adapt to changing consumer behaviour. Digital identity solutions will play a key role in creating touchless travel and rebuilding trust.
The World Economic Forum’s Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI) initiative is an excellent example of how digital traveller identity might develop. Partners of the program can access verifiable claims to manage health risks, and passengers can choose what information they wish to share, such as their immunisation status and locations visited. A significant advantage of the KTDI is that border officials can screen travellers in advance to avoid bottlenecks and long queues.
The pandemic may have kept people in one place, but the desire and need to jump on an aircraft and travel to all corners of the globe are still strong. While businesses can mitigate the effects of lockdown and social distancing through digital connections, they are a poor substitute for personal interaction and conducting deals with boots on the ground.
The current health crisis will pass but preventing another COVID-19 pandemic or any other disease outbreak will require a significant change from how the aviation and tourism industry has done things in the past. New technology and systems are already in the works. By the time we are ready to start flying again, passengers will enjoy a more seamless travel experience than ever before.
Following the Coronavirus outbreak, airports are looking at how to get fliers back into their facilities. Air travel always divided opinions on being somewhat tiresome, even before COVID-19 began but flights are not the only thing that will see significant changes – the airport experience is also about to change.
1. Airport entry
Non-fliers will likely not be allowed in airports as the first major change travellers will notice. It's to make sure that they only have to deal with people who will be flying.
This means picking up travellers must be done outside of the airport building. As travellers arrive at the airport, they will see longer check-in options than usual so need to plan for this in their journey.
As the decade concludes, passengers can expect a higher number of self-service options at airports, including the use of biometrics and e-gates to reduce human interaction.
Despite being designed to speed up the screening process, these can be extremely helpful to reduce the length of queues and monitor how many people are standing near each other during the screening process. To comply with GDPR, COVID-19 screening systems may only use facial recognition if consent is valid and free.
Airports are implementing new cleaning processes as a means of improving hygiene as well as to reassure passengers. They will significantly increase cleaning, making it visible to visitors to create a greater sense of trust, but also conducting it more frequently than before. Cleanliness and sanitation will be seen as heroism by passengers because they help maintain a safe and clean environment.
Among many facilities, travellers will observe hand sanitizer stations, disinfectant wipes, masks, and gloves sold in vending machines. Gate areas will also be disinfected more often on airlines. It is in addition to procedures being put in place by the airport itself, such as disinfecting hard surfaces and seats at least three times a day with peroxide-based chemicals.
Several airports already use thermal cameras to check passenger temperatures, since they're the most efficient way to do so since there's no interruption of passenger flow and no negative effects on capacity. The public doesn't see them, although they are effective. As a result, passenger confidence may not be restored. Once airline travel becomes more widespread, passengers will feel more secure if infrared thermometers are used to screen them.
For now, many airlines and other airport operators have shut down their lounges, but as passenger numbers increase, they will most likely reopen soon. As an alternative to potentially crowded concourses, some lounges may find a new audience among frequent fliers. There will be a desire for travellers to feel in control of their environment.
Having these spaces to retreat to will give them that security. A heavily reduced flight schedule could mean that they would be waiting for longer between flights, so having somewhere comfortable to wait would be extremely beneficial.
Airports are looking into ways to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world, including requiring their employees and travellers to wear face masks. Although the airport industry may struggle for a while, they will overcome - they are resilient enough to come up with reliable solutions.