There is a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. I am seeing it here in my home state where they are beginning to look at plans to ease restrictions and move forward to a new normal. I don’t there there will ever be a normal as we defined it in January 2020 and I have already laid out my thoughts on what cruising might look like. But air travel is another huge component of what we do and it is going to be vastly different.
On April 23rd Emirates began to resume flights from Dubai as this is written. Obviously the destinations are controlled by the receiving country and their own fight with the COVID-19 virus. But if you have ever flown on Emirates, you know the level of service and opulence for which they are known. And a lot of that will be changing. Moving forward, passengers can expect:
- Vacant seats next to single passengers or family groups
- No carry-on baggage other than laptop, purse, or diaper bag
- A pre-board temperature screening
- No magazines
- Complete disinfecting between flights
- Passengers required to wear masks and gloves
- Any passenger fronting employee will be required to wear full PPE to include gowns and face shields
Quite a difference.
But how would that translate into the US carriers? I do not think we will be quite as protective as Emirates, but quite probably, we will see:
- Elimination of middle seats
- Greater seat pitch
- Mask and Glove requirement
- No magazines
- Disinfecting before flights
Look what this might do to a carrier such as Southwest. Middle seats will eliminate 1/3 of their capacity. And their 20-minute turnaround will be a thing of the past when you add in a disinfecting step. And the situation is not too much different from legacy carriers with multiple classes of service. If the airlines do not voluntarily implement some of these steps, I fully expect Congress and the FAA to mandate some of them. And with the bailout they are receiving, they are in no position to bargain.
Truly a new experience for the customer!
The airlines will have to absorb the cost of the changes and the lost revenue from flying fewer passengers. You can bet they will not be ordering more aircraft to replace the lost seats until their balance sheets are shored up significantly. But the airlines (like most businesses) will absorb these costs by passing them along to the passengers. That’s a no-brainer.
So, as agents of the airlines, we can expect to see costs of flights (and generally the costs of any trip involving a flight) to increase substantially. From my home airport, BWI, a trip to Walt Disney World (which some say will not be re-opening until 2021) was relatively affordable. I could fly four of us to MCO for about $1000. I’d expect that to double when the airlines get back on their feet. That alone, will put a Disney trip out of reach for many people. While the cost of a week in Aruba may be reasonable, spending $3000+ to get there may not.
We are going to need to be prepared for these changes and modify our business plans accordingly. We need alternatives for our clients when they feel comfortable to travel once again that will fit in their budget and their comfort level.
Arranging air for your clients may prove problematic depending on how airlines handle social distancing; so if you are not charging a fee, you can plan to lose money on each ticket you sell. Each reservation will take more time and more effort to handle in the future.
The best advice I can give, is to be ready to adapt. If nothing else, this crazy industry has become adept at adapting. Be prepared!
And, because sometimes, you just need to laugh a bit….here you go!