With flights grounded, borders closed and airlines struggling to stay afloat, it is understandable that consumer confidence in the air travel industry has sunk to an all time low.
Following the impact of coronavirus it is important that standards are revised to cope with high expectations passengers will demand, and rightly so.
In order for the international travel industry to restart there needs to be internationally recognised standards put in place to ensure the safety not only of the passengers but the airline staff too.
In the United Kingdom Heathrow Airport has started to trial health screening initiatives including thermal screening technology which can monitor the body’s temperature, facial recognition, making all its screening equipment contactless and UV sanitation to ensure all security trays are sanitized.
If the procedures are a success it is believed they will be implemented at airports across the country, highlighting the changes that we could see when traveling in the future.
It is imperative that consumers feel safe when traveling or the air travel industry will struggle to recover.
Currently more than half of all global international travel has either been canceled or moved to a later date due to the restrictions placed on travel. With so many vacation plans having been canceled as a response to the global pandemic it is believed there will be a big increase in the number of passengers wishing to travel overseas once the stay-at-home orders have been removed.
While a recent survey found 49% of travelers were concerned about the impact covid-19 has had, it is not yet clear whether the ‘fear factor’ will affect the numbers of passengers seeking vacations to international destinations.
Although it is clear that consumer confidence will eventually return to the travel industry, it is also clear that it could take some time. Consumers will be expecting the health regulations of airlines across the world to become standardized while the concerns of each individual country’s handling of the crisis will also feature strongly.
While the majority of countries were testing all travelers entering their borders for coronavirus before the pandemic increased, there is a general consensus that each country’s regulations were different from the next. If these activities are not the same in each country future travel would suffer dramatically.
John Holland Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said he believes the world’s governments should be moving forward and create a universal health and safety initiative, ensuring coronavirus can be contained rather than spreading across international borders, and the technological testing at Heathrow could be the solution.
Currently the majority of the world’s airlines have suffered dramatic financial losses due mainly to the cancelation of both domestic and international flights. Delta Airlines have recently requested a bail out including loans and grants from the US government and private investors while American Airlines announced $2.2 billion losses in the first quarter of the year.
Flights in some countries are beginning to restart with British Airways (BA) expected to resume their flight schedule in July, although the company is continuing to look at the safety of passengers as well as ensuring social distancing measures are adhered to. Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), owners of BA, confirmed that although they will be looking at different ways to ensure passenger safety, they are yet to decide whether they would enforce gloves or masks on their flights – which will run at 50% capacity.
Meanwhile Qatar Airways have increased their flights from 52 in May to 80 in June in response to the improving conditions of covid-19 in some countries. And they are not the only ones. Korean Air are also increasing the number of international routes they provide– from 13 in May to 32 in June – while the number of international flights is increasing each week from 55 to 146.
Following the cancelation of all flights on May 28, Turkish Airlines are planning on providing 75 weekly flights to 22 international destinations, with the potential to increase to 103 destinations and 572 flights in July, with August seeing 937 flights to 160 international destinations.
Domestic flights in all countries are expected to increase before international travel as borders are eased slightly in each region.
However some airlines have not been so fortunate. Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration in April however recent reports state that there are currently 30 interested parties looking at recapitalizing the airline.
Meanwhile in Europe airlines were forced to exhaust all other ways of raising funds before they were allowed to ask their governments for help with airlines in Italy and Belgium seeing their governments looking into whether they should renationalize the carriers.
In a further effort to maintain strict social distancing rules experts believe the sale of food and beverages in flight will be reduced, minimizing the number of touchpoints made with the customer.