Whenever you’re ready to fly again, be prepared: air travel after the coronavirus will look and feel a lot different from the last time you boarded a plane.
The big picture: With passenger traffic down 95% during the height of the pandemic, airlines have all but given up on trying to salvage the lucrative summer travel season. The global industry expects to lose $314 billion this year, and airline executives say it could be two to three years before air travel recovers to pre-crisis levels.
In the meantime, pack your patience along with your face mask: everything is going to take longer.
Expect new procedures for everything from luggage check-in to security clearance and boarding.
You might even need to have your blood tested to prove you’re in good health before boarding.
“9/11 changed travel completely with added security checks and longer check-in times. The impact of COVID-19 on air travel will be even more far-reaching,” says airline consultant Shashank Nigam, CEO and founder of SimpliFlying, in a blog post.
The big question: How much hassle will people tolerate, or will they avoid flying altogether?
What’s happening: Right now, flights are practically empty, making it easy to spread out for social distancing.
Despite a $50 billion taxpayer-funded relief package, airlines say they’ll need to shrink to match lower demand. As they consolidate flights, planes will fill up again.
Jet Blue Airways and United Airlines say they’ll require passengers to wear face masks, and others say they’ll make them available. (Flight crews are already wearing masks on many airlines.)
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants the FAA to make masks mandatory for everyone.
Airlines also say they’ll limit ticket sales so that middle seats can remain open.
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