The coronavirus has changed many things in the world we live in … and air travel will be no exception. .
What will it be like to fly from now on?
The great economic crises or events like 9/11 changed our way of flying and with the covid-19 pandemic it seems that it will be no different.
Airlines around the world announced various measures to prevent infections amid the historical slowdown that the sector is going through and the uncertainty about the “new” normality.
“We are facing biggest challenge in the history of commercial aviation: revive an industry that has largely stopped operating beyond borders while ensuring that it is not a significant vector for the spread of covid-19 ″.
This is underlined by a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Airports Council (ACI) this week.
With thousands of planes on the ground, the industry tries to provide security to its customers so that they return, although in some recent cases their announcements did not correspond to reality, evidencing the difficulty of this process.
Here we review the actions announced for the different stages of a journey … and the challenges behind them.
1. Before boarding
The image we have of airports in the West will change: to start with the use of masks, which the vast majority of airlines consulted already stipulate that will be mandatory during boarding and flight.
This protection measure, already common in pre-David times in Asian societies, will be added to others to maintain the distance recommended by scientists, such as rearranging the tails.
The appearance of the counters will change due to the coronavirus, according to the airlines. .
Airlines are trying to minimize physical contact in phases such as check-in or check-in, and some like the United States. Delta They have announced that they will install plexiglass partitions, the material whose use has fueled the coronavirus.
Also many of the companies suggest printing the boarding pass already at home, or have it available on the mobile phone to avoid physical contact, as LATAM points out.
“At the airport, go to the check-in counter without friends or family members,” adds the Latin American airline.
In this new era, you will have to have more patience.
We will run into more controls at airports, including temperature and “for all customers”, as advertised on its Aeroméxico website.
However, experts in the sector consulted by BBC Munsdo warn that this will depend largely on the regulations of the country or city in which you are.
From the sector, temperature controls are expected to be increased. .
To board a flight, the Spanish Iberia and other companies indicate, for example, that they will prioritize “the entry and exit of the plane by catwalks, whenever possible ”.
In the case of having to take a bus to get to the aircraft, some companies claim that will increase the frequency so that they are only occupied at 50% of their capacity “with no more than 40 passengers”, points out the Greek Aegean Air.
Another announced change is the “new” boarding order: some firms explain that they will board passengers based on their seat (window, center and, finally, aisle); while others point out that it will be done starting at the rear of the aircraft.
3. During the flight
This is the most complicated part of all for companies and where some controversial measures come into play.
To get started: blocking or not of seats. Several airlines say they will vacate the middle seats – or aisle seats on small planes – to ensure greater distance between travelers.
LATAM assures that it will do so “when possible”; the low-cost American Jetblue says it will carry it out at least “until July 6” and the Dutch KLM points out that it “will reorder the cabin to increase the distance” between people whenever possible, to name a few examples.
The coronavirus has brought the aviation industry to its most difficult time. .
But there is opposition to these types of measures: Michael O’Leary, president of Ryanair, one of the most famous low-cost airlines in Europe, recently considered that blocking the middle seat is “crazy”: “unavailable” and “ineffective “
“Airlines make money when the plane is full. They try to put as many seats as possibleRoss Aimer, retired captain of United Airlines and current director of the company of specialists in the sector Aero Consulting Experts, of California, explains to the BBC.
The only way to do something like this would be “increasing the price of the ticket substantially” and, he adds, that “is a problem.”
Given the design of the planes, in addition, even maintaining an empty seat between passengers, the distance would not reach the 1.5 or 2 meters recommended by the scientific community, points out the expert.
However, airlines announce other measures during the flight to build confidence: protective equipment for the crew and coronakits for any emergency, move seat passengers so that they are as far apart as possible when possible, or the limitation, modification or suspension of the delivery of beverages, food and other products.
A photo of a plane full of passengers in the middle of the pandemic generated controversy this month in the United States. . / Ethan Weiss
To this are added practices such as extreme cleanliness of aircraft and the use of high-efficiency air filters, meanwhile Avianca in response to BBC World.
“In general, the risk of contracting an illness on an airplane is similar to that of other confined areas with high occupancy density, such as a bus, the subway or the cinema for a similar time of exposure,” says IATA.
That said, the risk in aircraft is probably less than in many confined spaces because modern aircraft have cabin air filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters. ”
4. Upon landing
To get off the planes, the airlines say that they will try to avoid crowds and in some cases recommend passengers traveling “light” to store your belongings under your seat and not have to touch other parts of the device.
In this phase of the trip, however, the measures approved by the airport itself and the authorities will come into play.
Protection and social distancing, especially at airports and flights, is key to avoiding the spread of covid-19, according to experts. .
Recently, cases such as extreme control have been reported at the Hong Kong airport, where passengers must have a covid-19 test upon arrival and may have to wait hours before leaving the premises.
A complex situation
Despite all this, controversial situations occurred on recent flights that they questioned announcements.
“My flight was full,” Liliana Carvajal, an American who traveled on May 9 with American Airlines from San Francisco to Miami, tells BBC World on two stops.
Carvajal relates with evident frustration and anger how the crew did not use the mask at all times “because it was not yet mandatory“The lack of hand sanitizer or temperature controls at airports, as well as the poor condition of the toilets on flights.
“I was very pissed off,” Carvajal recalls of her recent trip. Courtesy of Liliana Carvajal.
In the United States, a photograph of a doctor on a United Airlines plane also sparked controversy this month.
The image shows an apparently full plane despite the airline previously assuring customers that it would block the middle seat. So did a similar case in Spain, with a flight between Madrid and Gran Canaria with high occupancy.
The situation is complex, as “currently there is no measure that can mitigate all the risks of reactivating air transport,” said Angela Gittens, director for ACI World, in a statement this week.
“However, we believe that a consistent global strategy, based on results, is the most effective way of balancing risk mitigation with the need to unlock the economy and activate travel. ”
And is that, if the requirements or conditions vary greatly depending on the place or the airline, that can lead to people feeling more insecure.
“I think if one of the airlines – United, American … big in the US – comes up with a plausible scenario that works, I’m sure others will copy it around the world,” says expert Ross Aimer.
“Their livelihood depends on it ”.