Post COVID-19 flights will have you swearing under your breath while shuffling your feet or juggling your carry-on luggage in socially distancing long queues in airports. The mandatory two-hour pre-international flight arrival time at the airport will be extended to ensure that you jump through all the hoops necessary before you put your rear-end on a seat on a plane.
You might even have to be prepared to have your temperature taken by a hazmat-suited clone upon check-in, and have an electronic "health" passport with all the other hoo-ha of travel documents clutched in your sweaty hands. This will be the new normal for wanderlusters desperate to get up into the bright blue skies.
A precaution being mooted by many countries to not let COVID-19 infected souls cross their borders is a health passport that will be used in conjunction with your existing passport. Believed to be the way that countries can get back onto the travel road economy, it could be the ticket to freedom.
Many countries with large tourism-based economies see this as the best method to protect their own citizens and to reinvigorate flagging tourism dollars. Italy, Greece, Spain, Chile and Turkey, to name a few, are all considering this step. Bearing in mind that it will probably be two years or more before the travel world goes back to pre-coronavirus times, this is a relatively easy solution that can be implemented.
It's predicted that there will be fewer flights, flying routes, and seats on those flights, plus prices are set to soar. Facemasks on everyone will be mandatory. Cabin in-flight service will have to be modified and may even totally disappear. Forget about looking over your paper dinner menu while sipping a glass of vino. Some airlines are considering a no-alcohol rule, and your inflight meal will be a prepackaged snack unless you are on a long-haul flight. You will actually be encouraged to BYO goodies to eat, so that physical contact between flight attendants and passengers is reduced.
Middle seats could be left empty, and some talented designers have come up with the idea of creating a "Janus" seating plan. The middle position is turned around to face the rear of the aircraft, and wraparound clear-view shields are put up. This would give each passenger their own little bubble of security, especially those in aisle seats, as it would protect them from the hordes that traipse around a plane. You'll have to ensure that you bring your own entertainment or book to read, as inflight magazines will be a thing of the past.
For the numerous unemployed several new employment opportunities will arise of the sterilizing ilk. Think "sky janitor" that will continually clean the most-touched surfaces in the plane. Other cleaners will be hanging around the security conveyor belt to "sanitag" your bag. Of course, you will pay more for that super cleaned checked-in luggage.
A quick glance around the globe confirms that significant changes are on the horizon. Be prepared to give blood if you are traveling out of Dubai. Emirates are doing blood tests. Etihad will have contactless check-in booths that will screen you for COVID-19 symptoms. You won't want to cough or sneeze while waiting for a flight in Thailand, as you won't be allowed to board a plane. Some parts of India are creating "disinfection tunnels" to ensure that boarding passengers are sterile—on the outside, that is.
An airline in the United States will require passengers to certify that they have not had COVID-19 symptoms within the previous 14 days of their flight. The list appears to be ever expanding, as to how to get people back on planes without spreading the contagion.
Airlines around the world are in a precarious position, with some nearing collapse or in bankrupt mode. Small European carriers and regional Asian airlines are really vulnerable, with many predictions about mergers, especially if government help is not available. Some airports have become merely parking bays for grounded aircraft.
It's a cloudy crystal ball trying to predict what the post-COVID-19 airline market will look like. Domestic flights should return before international ones get off the ground, and it may take several years for a full turnaround in the market.
For the time being, the clear skies will remain mostly empty, apart from soft fluffy clouds of dreams.