Could the Future Travel Experience Include Masks, Temperature Scans and Immunity Passports?
Airlines and airports certainly will be among the most eager to get back to business and offer more flexibility in travel, but government policy makers will have to set the stage for a return to service. Some of them will only take cues from respected health experts, who will have to put their reputations on the line to make those calls. No one will want deaths on their hands. But, even then, the big question is when passengers will be comfortable boarding an airplane in sufficient numbers to support commercial aviation again.
Regardless of how long it takes, it is safe to say the travel journey will certainly look different in some important ways.
We expect there will be more automation throughout the entire process – contactless and touchless options at ticket counters, bag drops, security check points.
Attention to hygiene will be in far greater focus – for you and for airports, airlines, and hotels – and possibly even domestic and international cities alike.
And, at least at first, we’ll see more people wearing masks and gloves at every step of the travel process.
How far this will go is still a question mark.
Could a new government agency issue an immunity passport to travel? Some industry players are considering it and it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
We’ve already seen airlines takes steps to increase hygiene and safety such as:
- Keeping middle seats open to increase social distancing on airplanes;
- Crew members, such as flight attendants, wearing masks and gloves;
- Planes boarding from the front and the rear of the aircraft;
- Meals being pre-packaged and placed on seats prior to boarding;
- And, making sanitizer and wipes available to passengers along with a bio-hazard bag.
Last week, the Flight Safety Foundation held a webinar during which they polled the ~250 or so attendees who generally work in the aviation industry to see what they thought would make passengers comfortable.
About 50 percent thought wearing face masks would be a useful protection, while 42 percent said taking a temperature scan of travelers will be effective in stopping the spread of viruses.
Social distancing—including spacing passengers out on an airplane—wasn’t thought to be particularly effective either. Forty-three percent said this practice wouldn’t be very effective.
What will make passengers feel safe enough to fly and, what will actually make them safe is, of course, two different things.
Businesses and governments involved in the travel industry would be wise to base their operational decisions on the best facts and scientific data, taking the steps that will truly help slow and stop the outbreak. Ending the pandemic is the only long-term solution to the crisis.
But these organizations will need to communicate frequently and repeatedly to travelers about all the steps they have taken, and are taking, to ensure safe and healthy environments in airports, on airplanes, at hotels, lounges and restaurants.
All that starts now, while the crisis is on-going, and it will continue well into the foreseeable future.
For additional information, or for any questions regarding health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Xenophon’s COVID-19 Crisis Response Team webpage at: https://xenophonstrategies.com/covid-19-response.
Getting Back to Work is an ongoing series on health and safety regarding COVID-19 from Xenophon Strategies, in partnership with Dr. David Hamer, a professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine with more than 30 years of experience in epidemiological diseases. Through the partnership Xenophon is working with Dr. Hamer to provide science-based recommendations and guidance on how employers, employees, and families should best respond to and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.