With airlines ramping up their plans to re-start their passenger operations, the airline industry has been busy making changes to the way it operates during this COVID19 crisis, largely disputed to be the greatest crisis the industry has ever gone through. It will all depend on who wants to fly, where they want to fly to and when this will happen.
Before this happens airlines will need to determine the safest and most cost effective way of getting large number of people inside and enclosed space whilst meeting all COVID19 related regulations regarding social distancing, providing a safe environment for both staff and passengers alike.
Emirates and Etihad along with other airlines around the world have been operating a limited amount of repatriation flights, these flights are non-commercial flights designed to take stranded individuals home only. These flights have been operating with several changes on board:
· All middle seats are blocked off – to maximise the distance between passengers on board.
· Hot meals are not being served – To minimise the amount of people touching food items.
· Only closed food and drinks being served – items such as sandwiches and cold wraps being served, all drinks to be handed to passengers must be sealed.
· Personal Protective Equipment to be worn at all times barring meals by all onboard – this is to minimise the risk infection spread to both staff and passengers.
· No hand luggage to be taken on board – To prevent passengers from brining in contaminated surfaces onboard as well as to minimise areas of contact for both staff and passengers.
In addition to this, all passengers in the UAE must have been tested and declared COVID19 free by the health authorities before boarding their flight. Other countries such as Poland have been enforcing passenger isolation upon arrival by making passengers sign declaration forms stating where they have come from and where they will stay during a 14 day quarantine period. With the local police paying a the passengers unannounced home visits to ensure compliance. For flight crew, a COVID19 test followed by a 14 day home quarantine period is also being enforced upon returning to their home base.
So with the situation on board now has changed rapidly for the short term, how will this impact flying in the long term? What will flying look like once this is all over? This is very much open to debate, it is no secret that airline seats have been getting smaller and smaller in recent years but with the increased demand in passenger safety as well as decreased confidence in flying, many airlines have been looking at how to ensure customer confidence remains high and in place.
Companies at the forefront of cabin design such as Avioninteriors are coming up with solutions like GlassSafe. Designed to work with current seating configurations, it provides a protective barrier between individual passengers sitting in close proximity.
Another solution is to introduce "two faced" layouts with all passengers having their own enclosed space. This layout has the advantage of being able to resolve armrest wars before they even begin, although they might make for interesting/awkward interactions between passengers.
One thing that remains clear is that the demand for flights is there and that airlines will want to resume commercial flights as soon as possible. Businesses will want to resume their normal operations and there are thousands of individuals who want to see their friends, their loved ones or just want to get away again from it all. Aviation is an ever evolving industry which will come out stronger once the pandemic is over and we are lucky to be a part of it.
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