As the deadly Coronavirus single-handedly pummels the travel industry, avid travelers are chomping at the bits for adventure– I know I am! Travel planning that dream destination while being responsibly locked down (or quarantining) and being no closer to making that destination a reality is crazy frustrating.
After traveling full time for three years I sometimes scoff at the timing of my decision to slow down back in September 2019– directly ahead of the outbreaks in Asia. But much like the rest of the adventure travel addicts out there, I’m also climbing the walls with anticipation of being able to get back to globetrotting; equal parts enchanted and terrified by the possibilities of what air travel might be like in the “new normal”.
Coronavirus has brought entire economies to a standstill for weeks (some months) at a time. Millions of people (worldwide) have lost jobs and sturdy businesses that have survived world wars faltered substantially from the losses sustained during this global shut down of sorts. Those tourist-based businesses that managed to cling to life are eagerly waiting for tourists; domestic and foreign alike.
Let’s discuss a few possible post-Coronavirus adaptations to air travel awaiting avid travelers and vacationers in the “new normal”.
What to expect at airports
To put it bluntly, a trip to the airport might feel more like a visit to your general practitioner’s office. Expect to see airport employees wearing protective face visors and latex gloves for the duration of their shift. Disinfectant stations will be in abundance as will markings on the walkways clearly indicating the expectations of space between customers.
Informational posters about proper health practices, washing your hands, social distancing, etc. have begun to appear in terminals while multilingual recordings of the same message are likely to play on 25-minute rotations. Even vending machines with face masks, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes have been spotted in airports in Amsterdam.
The waiting game
If you thought lines were long before…prepare to be amazed at how long they will be now. With social distancing measurements being implemented worldwide airports have begun testing various resolutions that keep travelers and employees safe but allow the structure to actually function. One notion was to enforce the 2-meter (6 feet) distance rule at baggage counters in addition to having every other window operational. But this would create a catastrophe for the function of the airport itself with lines for check-in bleeding out of exits and into parking lots.
It’s more likely that thermal detection systems, some of which can test up to 16 people at one time, that identify potential carriers by flagging those with an elevated body temperature will be installed throughout terminals as air travel increases.
The environment on the plane will change too. Customers are expected to keep their faces covered with face visors or traditional medical masks for the entirety of the journey. Antiviral fogs will be used far more frequently instead of on specific flights from regions in Asia or Africa. Expect more social distancing practices, restricting the number of passengers in the cabin at one given time. And, yes, by default, increasing boarding times. How the prolonged boarding times will affect the runway and the sustainability of that approach is a whole other issue.
Additional onboard changes to expect:
- Limited meal service
- No magazines or catalogs
- Contactless card payments for merchandise
- Special requests for toilet usage to avoid queuing lines
On the bright side, the middle seat is likely going to remain empty for a little while making long flights that much more comfortable.
These implementations during the “new normal” for air travel are not being rolled out on every airliner, nor are they guaranteed to be implemented at all. The majority of these ideas remain just that. But it’s intriguing to foreshadow the likelihood of these safety measures in an environment as crowded as an airport.
Thermal temperature scanning, longer waiting time for check-in/baggage claim, and enough medical accessories to supply a small clinic– the “new normal” might be a tad surreal and so far from anything that anyone could imagine.
If these changes are put in place, it will likely not be compulsory. In fact, travelers can refuse to be screened. It will be up to the individual to display responsible behaviors in this very public setting.
Will you be able to tolerate this version of normal when traveling? It’ll take some getting used to and a serious rewiring of individual levels of patience, but together we can accomplish anything. We can all do our part to support responsible travel until a vaccine is developed, tested, and made available to the masses.
In the meantime, protect yourself with travelers’ insurance. In this day and age, we just never know what could happen and to what extent it could upset the state of the world. Be ready, be insured, be safe.
Still not ready to travel? Don’t fret! I’ve done enough traveling for both of us! Check out my latest adventure streaming now on the Meredith San Diego Youtube channel.
Live vicariously through me.