Experts predict travel will take up to two years to recover once Covid-19 has been given the all-clear.
Global travel specialists Atmosphere Research Group (ARG) and other leading industry players believe recovery will be gradual, rather than a fast bounce back. And they claim it will be heavily led by domestic tourism.
Research from ARG also reveals airlines will rebuild their networks, starting with key routes. There will be a strategic focus on building capacity using smaller and more fuel-efficient aircrafts. This includes the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 rather than aircrafts such as the double-decker Airbus A380.
According to ARG, once coronavirus is declared “under control”, the next six to nine months will see what the organisation refers to as “tiptoe travellers” venture out.
ARG predicts while this segment will include some business travellers, it will be led by personal and leisure trips. These travellers will be “better educated” and come from high income groups. This will mainly be domestic and short-haul trips.
Between eight and 16 months, ARG predicts a wave of “pioneer” travellers. This will be led by business travel and mid- to high-tier frequent flyers with a household income of US$125,000 or more. They will venture out on more long-haul flights.
From 12 to 18 months, there will be a rush of “fast followers” as the industry receives strong bookings from business travellers and premium flyers. It is during this period, ARG expects business travel to resume to the new normal.
At 16 to 24 months after Covid-19 is under control, ARG believes leisure travel will truly return and reach between 80 to 90 percent of pre-virus volume.
Changes to How We Travel
According to an article in Forbes, there will be huge changes to airport regulations and restrictions.
Steps under consideration include scrapping cabin bags, lounges and automatic upgrades. The use of face masks and surgical gloves will be mandatory and minimising face-to-face contact will be achieved through self-check-in and self-bag-drop-off.
Immunity passports, on-the-spot blood tests and sanitation and disinfection tunnels are also expected to become the norm. Demarcation spaces for social distancing, thermal scanning and having bags sanitised will also be essential measures to restore confidence in flying.
Experts predict this could lead to a four-hour period to clear check-in and immigration.
Boarding is predicted to become touchless, with digital options such as facial recognition being mooted. On airplanes, there will be blocked seats, electrostatic spraying, and the use of PPE and masks.
Food is expected to be scrapped on short-haul flights. Airlines are considering light refreshments for long-haul flights. Hong Kong Airlines has decided to stop serving any food on its flights.
On arrival, SimpliFlying forecasts passengers will need to show an immunity document or passport to border control agents. The International Air Transport Association is also recommending thermal testing.
In a recent report, the World Tourism and Travel Council said: “There will be new protocols for check-in involving digital technology; hand sanitiser stations at frequent points including where luggage is stored; contactless payment instead of cash; using stairs more often than lifts where the two-metre-rule can be harder to maintain; and fitness equipment being moved for greater separation, among other examples.”