COVID-19: Ground reality for air travel

Processes are being overhauled and systems are being rebooted.

Published: 17th May 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th May 2020 01:33 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Processes are being overhauled and systems are being rebooted. Air travel may never be the same again. With stricter protocols and radicalised procedures, things are to get streamlined and sanitised. Boeing is working on lavatories that sanitise themselves in less than three seconds. Vistara has announced a reduction in meal choices. There will be no onboard sales. Sealed bottled will be distributed as opposed to water-pouring. Modern air-filtration systems are being put in place by some, while others will be running their coaches at reduced capacity. Here are some of the things one can expect.      

Immunity Certificate
With a vaccine still in the making, many governments including Italy, the UK and the USA have suggested the use of digital immunity passports that can be carried around as proof of being healthy (read Covid-19-free). There are opposing views about its accuracy but some version of it may come into practice. Physical IDs will be replaced by digital ones easily accessed through the phone.

Reducing Touch Points
Touchless means germless. With every step of air travel involving some amount of touch, verification and scanning will be made touchless. Face and iris recognition technology will come into play. Automation will play a central role. ‘Contactless, self-service technologies will facilitate passenger flow, cutting queues while ensuring a social distancing-friendly passenger experience,’ according to a position paper published by SITA, a leading IT solutions provider for the aviation sector. Titled ‘The New Normal – The Changing Face of Air Transport,’ it proposes the use of biometrics and next-generation touchpoints throughout the passenger’s journey, enabling a low-touch airport experience.

“For example, using SITA Flex, agents can use their airline’s applications on a mobile device such as an iPad, anywhere, freeing them from a fixed location or station used by multiple parties that may be nearby. Similarly, passengers can operate process points such as kiosks, using their own mobile devices, without the need to touch screens on the airport’s physical infrastructure. This solution has been successfully implemented at San Francisco Airport,” says Barbara Dalibard, the CEO.

Online Check-in
Sounds basic but online check-in may become standard practice. Airports such as JFK, Heathrow, and Singapore Changi are already working towards making this happen. “We can begin doing what the Montreal airport has been admirably doing for many years, which is booking appointments to go through security screening. Passengers sign up online and arrive only when their turn comes, avoiding standing in proximity to others,” says Delhi-based pilot Ragini Kapila, who operates in the Delhi-Mumbai sector with a leading domestic airline.

PPE All the Way
A new uniform has already been launched by Air Asia for its cabin crew with protective gear. This is expected to be followed by other airlines too. Face masks and gloves will not only be worn by passengers but also by ground staff. There is a possibility of a janitor being on board for regular cleaning, according to SimpliFlying. Sealed meals will be distributed. In-flight magazines or newspapers also may be excluded from the offering.

Smart Travel
The smartphone will become the primary instrument to facilitate air travel. “Underpinning this mobile-enabled self-service experience will be new generation platforms. These will enable cloud-based businesses, giving airlines and airports rapid scalability and flexibility. Apps and real-time information will be accessible from anywhere, at any time, for both passengers and employees,” says Dalibard.


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