by Jon Crimes
The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on aviation.
Images of aircraft parked side by side, on any available airport space, are becoming all too familiar. Job losses, anxious CEO’s, commentators wildly speculating. Surely there’s some light at the end of this ‘grounded’ tunnel?
If we manage to get back to some sort of normality, how will aircraft operators adapt to this brave new world?
As passengers, we will find out soon!
Before then, a look at major news sites, airline websites and social media begins to paint a picture of what the future of passenger flight might hold for us.
The phrase ‘Sanitized Travel’ is becoming popular online and especially with future air travel plans. So, let us have a look at what might happen when you board an aircraft for the first time since the pandemic started!
Imagine, your first post-coronavirus flight…
Arriving at the airport
You don’t remember being this tired or ‘anxious’ before a flight! Ok, so you had to arrive at the airport a bit earlier than before, but this wasn’t too excessive.
Maybe it was the amount of time it took to get through security?
Boarding won’t be long now! Thank goodness. The plastic gloves are feeling quite clammy and the mask is getting moist.
You wonder if the masks ‘moistness’ affects its function? Anxiety increases.
You reminisce of the boarding ‘scrums’ of yesteryear. How things have changed, this could be for the better!
Passengers are now called forward by phone app! Is your app working, will you board with your spouse and two children? There goes that anxiety again.
You do some deep breathing behind your soggy mask; it helps a bit! As a family, you get notified to start boarding, panic over…
The Passenger Boarding Tunnel
The walk through the tunnel follows extremely strict social distancing rules! This is encouraging and it feels a bit more relaxed than the ‘dash’ that used to take place in times gone by.
In the distance, you can see passengers waiting to walk through the aircraft door. It looks like this is going to take a while! Is each passenger getting their own individual safety brief?
At the aircraft door
Your family push you to the front, like some sort of post-apocalyptic guinea pig.
There are two cabin crew supervising entry. Both are wearing surgical gloves and face visors.
It’s the sort of PPE you’ve become accustomed to in most walks of life. So why does this feel completely alien within the confines of an aircraft?
You get asked to look at an information placard and confirm you don’t have any of the listed symptoms. Your temperature is taken for the second time since arriving at the airport. The crew then confirm that your mask and gloves are fitted correctly.
Before you’re allowed to enter, a disinfectant wipe is thrust into your hand. This is to wipe your seat and surrounding area before you make yourself ‘comfortable’.
At your seat
The seat is now clean! You sit down and wait for the aircraft to ‘fill-up’.
With every middle seat having a ‘Do Not Use’ sign on it, you feel confident that fewer people will be boarding. But this doesn’t speed up the process! Only one passenger is boarded at a time.
Once that passenger has stowed their hand luggage, wiped down their seat, and sat down, then another is allowed onboard.
As a family of four, you’re spread between six seats, an unexpected positive with plenty of elbow room.
Seated and belted, you have a quick look in the seat pocket for the in-flight magazine but remember that these don’t exist anymore.
The passenger entertainment system is also gone. Replaced with a blanking plate with instructions on it of when to use your own electronic devices.
Ready for takeoff
The cabin is declared ‘full’. Does full now mean about 60% capacity? You hear the cabin crew saying that many people haven’t turned up, did they have second thoughts?
Seatbelts and face masks are checked by passing crew members.
Disinfectant wipes disposed of.
As the aircraft taxies to the runway, an extended version of a safety brief is played on the overhead displays. The brief seems to talk more about hygiene than in-flight emergencies!
The mask has gone past the ‘moist’ stage. You wonder what the various levels of mask moistness are called? Damp seems quite appropriate now!
The aircraft takes to the skies, it’s a nice feeling to be up in the air again.
You thank your lucky stars that this is a European flight. How long has this mask been on now? The PPE novelty, had there been one, has worn off!
Good planning is your mantra.
Hoping to avoid the aircraft toilets, you made sure the family all went before boarding.
But this hasn’t quite worked out and all four of you now need to answer the call of nature.
Queuing for the toilet is no longer permitted so you push the ‘call attendant’ button.
The procedure now is to add such requests, by seat number, to the ‘toilet list’.
When the toilet is free and clean, the ‘janitor’ will call the next seat on the list.
Is the airline employing separate toilet janitors now?
You see a rather young-looking cabin crew member walking back down the aisle with more detergent. They don’t appear to be that enthusiastic about their new role!
It takes 30 mins for your partner and children to get access to the toilet. When it’s your turn, the ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ light comes on and the captain announces that we’ll be landing soon.
You cross your legs a little bit harder!
The aircraft applies it brakes at the terminal. Instinct takes over and all passengers start to rise out of their seats! This is quickly dealt with by a strict announcement to sit down and cabin crew motioning us with their hands to get back in our seats.
Being one of the first on, your family is now at the back of the queue to get off. Your bladder is starting to feel like an overinflated football!
Eventually, you all depart the aircraft and start the long process of social distancing through security at the other end.
You hope this holiday is going to be worth it!
Ok, this is a fictional account, but the dialogue is based on what a lot of the airline operators are considering now. You will see this for yourself in various press releases and social media feeds.
Do you think this represents an accurate picture of what future flying holds in store for us?
Have I included measures that you think airlines are going to shy away from or pay ‘lip service’ to?
What would you add to this fictional post-pandemic first flight?
Let me know in the comments section