Here is my crystal ball on the 10 new things to deal with the next time you fly.
#1 – Everyone is required to wear a face mask –
This is no big news for many people as over the last two weeks almost all the airlines said they will require face masks for all crew and passengers. I expect this requirement will be with us at least through the end of the year or until rapid COVID-19 testing prior to flights allows face masks to come down in 2021. Most airlines will provide you with a mask if you don’t have one while others may charge a fee.
#2 – Temperature checks before you get on the airplane that prohibits sick people from entering the plane –
This is a simple process of measuring the temperature of all people about to enter the airplane with an infrared contactless thermometer aimed at the traveler’s forehead. This process takes five seconds and the cost of the thermometer is less than $100. This process would identify abnormal temps that may indicate a fever, hypothermia, or other illnesses and prevent sick travelers from flying in order to protect other travelers. People with temperatures would not be able to fly. This is really more for physiological protection as some people are infected with the virus and show no symptoms.
#3 – No more middle seats –
It appears most airlines are blocking off using middle seats on flights as a way to provide social distancing on airplanes. This will be such a joy to not have to be squeezed into a middle seat at least for a few months. How long they continue to block off seating in middle seats will be determined by how fast the virus can be neutralized and also how fast travelers return to flying again. One thing is certain. The airlines can’t make money if they block off middle seats as that gets rid of over 33% of their revenue. The only way to maintain this program for the long term would be for a substantial increase in airline ticket prices of about $100 – $200 a ticket. I just don’t see that happening. My guess is that blocking middle seats will last for the rest of 2020 and then the hope is vaccines and other measures will allow the elbow to elbow travel once again.
#4 – Airlines best customers will board last –
Planes will soon start board from the back of the plane forward. This allows less customer contact and less congestion. I actually like this idea and think it will be around as long as the middle seat is blocked off. Historically the airlines’ best customers boarded first and sit at the front of the airplane. I think the new seating structure throws zone seating into a back to front-loading process and away from the best customers boarding first.
#5 – Overhead bins will be wide open –
You will always be able to find overhead bin space for your carry- on luggage. As long as the middle seat is blocked off flights will never be more than about 70 percent full. That means there will always be empty overhead space on full-sized jets.
#6 – Airport terminals will be ghost towns but flights will be full –
How can it be? The airlines have mothballed almost 90% of all their airplanes. With the middle seats empty to prevent everyone from flying shoulder to shoulder the airlines will need to fill up flights before they add more planes into service otherwise they are just adding more unprofitable flights into the system. Subtract 70-90% of the travelers from an airport terminal and they will seem like an empty ghost town.
#7 – No more airfare sales –
This is exactly opposite what I told you a month ago and I hope I am wrong on this one but my new logic says as long as the middle seat is blocked on all flights it is impossible for the airlines to make money flying airplanes less than 70% full. The airlines will have no incentive to fill empty seats will discount prices and lose money on every ticket sold. Bean counters will say they are better off financially by increasing ticket prices as the first ones who return to fly will be those people who “have to” fly. If the economy is still very slow with people out of work that means business travelers might be the first ones back in the saddle and they are not as price-sensitive as leisure travelers who often will respond to take advantage of a great deal.
#8 – Airplanes will be so clean you could eat off the floor –
Just kidding! But all the airlines will do everything possible to make sure the interiors of planes are double and triple cleaned between flights. This will include spray sanitizing between flights. The HEPA air filters on flights will also provide a fantastic air filtration system to protect recirculating bad air and germs. You will be provided sanitizing wipes to wipe down your seats and tray table areas when you enter the plane.
#9 – No more peanuts and Pepsi –
Many airlines will stop serving snacks along with drinks for domestic flights. Even those airlines that continue to serve drinks will probably pass out bottles rather than provide ice and a plastic cup for your drink. Some airlines will also not be serving alcohol on flights to prevent the high level of service required, plus it also saves them a pretty penny. It will be interesting to see how the airlines will treat passengers on international business class seats who pay $5,000 to $10,000 for a seat. I have a hard time imagining someone paying that much money and not receiving exquisite food, drink, and service.
#10 – Airlines will add a COVID – 19 insurance fee to your ticket price –
If the airlines start taking passengers’ temperatures at the gate before they allow people to get on a flight and prevent people with abnormal temperatures from getting on the flight they have a major problem on their hands. What do airlines do with the people who bought non-refundable tickets yet are refused boarding from something that may or may not be the virus? As much as the airlines like fees I bet that they will offer a simple $10 COVID fee that allows you to get a future airline credit if you test positive for the virus or have a temperature reading that prevents you from getting on a flight. If you don’t buy the insurance you are out of luck. I hope I am wrong with this crazy idea.