Grab your immunity passport, get your luggage ‘sanitagged’ and pick up an in-flight meal from the touchless vending machine.
Welcome to post-COVID-19 air travel.
“After 9/11, passengers needed reassurance that there were no weapons on board a plane. Now they’ll want reassurance there are no viruses.”
So says Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, an airline industry marketing and branding company headquartered in Singapore.
SimpliFlying has already combed through the air passenger experience and identified 70 areas that will need retooling before people will start flying again.
It’s all contained in a report called The Rise of Sanitized Travel.
Nigam, who lives in the GTA, has lent his air travel acumen to 100 different airlines all over the world in the last decade.
“Getting large numbers of people flying again will depend on giving them the peace of mind that they won’t be rubbing shoulders — or bumping elbows in Economy — with infectious fellow travellers,” Nigam said.
And by the same token, he said, “government authorities and airport operators will want to know that airlines adhere to a certain standard of cleanliness and hygiene before offering up landing slots.”
To illustrate how sanitation is key to sanity in air travel, Nigam’s report explains the changes travellers can expect once air travel is back up.
For starters, you’ll have to arrive a little earlier at the airport than in the past, and nobody will be able to come inside the terminal to see you off.
An immunity passport — proof of COVID-19 antibodies — may be required for travel; otherwise, there will be disinfection areas and thermal scanners for all.
You’ll have to be deemed fit to fly to get to the departure area.
Again, prior to boarding, there may be a blood test and health scan involved and anyone whose test results are not optimal may be denied boarding.
Luggage will be fogged or treated with UV and then ‘Sanitagged’ to show it has been through the disinfection process.
Gloves and masks will be mandatory for all travellers and aircraft personnel.
Boarding will be simplified by an individual notification on your phone, so no more of that jockeying for position in a crowded line-up by the desk or angling for overhead storage space. Carry-on of any kind will be even more limited than in the past.
The jet bridge will be transformed into a sanitation tunnel, one last chance to disinfect passengers and whatever belongings they carry.
Expect frequent hand-sanitizer service from the cabin crew. Expect a pre-packed meal or snack in sealed packaging. Don’t be surprised to see an in-flight janitor, whose job is maintaining the bathrooms and any common surfaces.
Every aircraft will get deep cleaning after every flight.
Just as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was founded after 9/11, there will probably be a Transportation Health Authority (THA) established after COVID-19, says Nigam.
A few of the ideas in The Rise of Sanitized Travel sound like science fiction, but Nigam says many will be in place within two months.
“Others will come in the next six months and others in a year. In Canada right now, face masks are compulsory on air personnel. And they will be tagging bags and ensuring that every tray in security is sanitized … those trays are touched by every single passenger.”
The details in The Rise of Sanitized Travel were vetted by the CEOs of major airlines says Nigam, who knows that people will be keen to travel — but nervous about it, after COVID-19.
“Airlines and airports will do everything they can to reassure people,” he said.