In this new regular column we report on the changing travel and aviation landscape as it takes shape in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We bring you details of how airports, airlines, travel retailers, F&B concessionaires and other service providers are adapting their processes and practices to consumer concerns about health and safety in this new world.
Australia – Qantas launched Fly Well programme
Qantas and Jetstar will roll out a series of measures aimed at offering travellers peace of mind pre-flight and onboard with domestic travel restrictions expected to ease. The ‘Fly Well’ programme will be launched from 12 June.
- Information will be sent to all customers before they fly.
- Contactless check-in (via online/app) and self-serve bag drop is encouraged, including use of Q Bag Tags.
- Hand sanitising stations at departure gates.
- Temporary changes to Qantas Lounges, including increased physical distancing, hand sanitising stations, enhanced disinfection of surfaces and adjustments to the food and drink service.
- Working with airports on other safeguards in the terminal, including regular disinfection of security screening points and installing hygiene screens at airline customer service desks, wherever practical.
- Masks provided to all passengers on each flight – while not mandatory, they are recommended.
- Enhanced cleaning of aircraft with a disinfectant effective against coronaviruses, with a focus on high contact areas – seats, seatbelts, overhead lockers, air vents and toilets.
- Sanitising wipes given to all passengers to wipe down seat belts, trays and armrests themselves, if preferred.
- Simplified service and catering to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers.
- Passengers asked to limit movement around cabin, once seated.
- Sequenced boarding and disembarkation to minimise crowding.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “We’re relying on the cooperation of passengers to help make these changes work for everyone’s benefit, and we thank them in advance for that. Given the great job Australians have done at flattening the curve, we’re confident they’ll respond positively to these temporary changes to how we fly.
“We’ll continue to work with government and monitor the rollout of these measures closely, which are designed with safety in mind and help people feel comfortable given the new norms that have emerged in response to the coronavirus crisis.”
Qantas Group Medical Director Dr Ian Hosegood said: “The data shows that actual risk of catching coronavirus on an aircraft is already extremely low. That’s due to a combination of factors, including the cabin air filtration system, the fact people don’t sit face-to-face and the high backs of aircraft seats acting as a physical barrier. As far as the virus goes, an aircraft cabin is a very different environment to other forms of public transport.
“Social distancing on an aircraft isn’t practical the way it is on the ground, and given the low transmission risk on board, we don’t believe it’s necessary in order to be safe. The extra measures we’re putting place will reduce the risk even further.”
The Fly Well programme will be reviewed after its first month of operation and shaped by customer feedback and medical advice.
Qatar – Qatar Airways introduces additional safety measures for passengers and crew members
Qatar Airways has introduced several additional safety measures for both passengers and cabin crew as it begins to expand flight operations.
Cabin crew are now required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) onboard. This includes safety goggles, gloves, masks, and the wearing of PPEs over their uniforms.
The airline is also implementing social distancing in-flight and during boarding. On flights with lighter passenger loads, it will allocate seats to minimise the occurrence of passengers sitting next to each other. It has also significantly reduced passenger and crew interactions and closed all social areas inflight. Large bottles of hand sanitiser will also be placed in the galleys.
Beginning 25 May, Qatar Airways will require passengers to wear face coverings and recommends that passengers provide their own face masks.
To reduce passenger and cabin crew contact during meal services, business class meals will be served on trays instead of in courses, with cutlery wraps used as an alternative to individual cutlery.
Business class passengers can enjoy enhanced privacy in the Qsuite, which offers sliding privacy partitions and fully closing doors. They can also opt to use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ indicator to further limit interaction with cabin crew.
As reported, the airline has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols, recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), across its entire fleet.
This includes the stringent washing of all onboard linens, sanitising all meal service utensils at bacteria-killing temperatures and using HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of viral contaminants from re-circulated air.
The airline has also invested in disinfectant robots — which are fully autonomous and emit concentrated UV-C lights — to eliminate infectious microorganisms in Hamad International Airport.
In addition, Qatar Airways has required staff to take additional health and safety training to help them adopt the new safety measures.
The airline has revised cabin crew distribution by sending two groups — the first to work on the outbound trip and the second to on the inbound trip — on short-haul and medium-haul flights. Long-haul flight crew members, who must stay overnight in a foreign city, can only travel via Qatar Airways-approved transport and must self-isolate in their rooms.
Cabin crew are also thermally screened before any flight departure and after their arrival. If a colleague or passenger show any symptoms of infection, relevant cabin crew members will be quarantined and tested.
His Excellency Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Mr. Akbar Al Baker commented, “At Qatar Airways, we have introduced these additional safety measures onboard our flights to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of our passengers and cabin crew, and to limit the spread of coronavirus. As an airline, we maintain the highest possible hygiene standards to ensure that we can fly people home safely during this time and provide even greater reassurance that safety is our number one priority.
“Seeing as we are still flying the world’s largest international network by operating flights to more than 30 destinations around the world and aiming to grow our network again in the coming months, these onboard safety measures will assist us in achieving our goals.”
US — Delta Air Lines introduces new health and safety measures
Dela Air Lines has doubled down on regular cleaning protocols across its aircrafts, check-in kiosks, and boarding gate areas. These include spraying electrostatic sprayers, sanitising with high-grade disinfectant, and manual cleaning in high-touch areas.
Delta Air Lines has also installed hand sanitiser dispensers on all ticket counters, boarding gates, help centres, baggage service offices, and Delta Sky Clubs. It has also included hand cleanser and cleansing towelettes in every inflight amenity kit.
To protect its staff, the airline has equipped customer-facing employees with personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser. Internally, it has launched a cross-divisional COVID-19 command centre to help employees adopt the new social distancing and hygiene measures.
As of 4 May, Delta Air Lines has also required all passengers and employees to wear face masks across all Delta touchpoints in the airport and onboard its fleet.
Beginning 30 June, the company is also implementing a series of temporary physical distancing measures. These include the blocking of middle seats and selected aisle/window seats in all aircrafts, reducing passenger numbers by 50-60% depending on aircraft type, pausing complimentary upgrades, modifying boarding processes, and paring down inflight food and beverage services.
In a statement the company said, “Coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic we’ve faced, and what we’ve learned from H1N1 and Ebola has helped prepare us to take care of customers today. While every health event has unique elements, the adjustments we have made in the past continue to pay dividends for managing the impact of coronavirus.
“These include equipping aircraft with Universal Precaution Kits, hand and surface sanitisers and other items, in accordance with CDC recommendations, so flight attendants can maintain their own health and the health of those onboard should a customer show signs of infection.”
Canada – Air Canada requires passengers to bring their own face coverings before flying
Air Canada has required all passengers to wear face masks during check-in, boarding, and onboard its aircrafts. The new measure was introduced on 20 April, following an interim order issued by the Canadian Federal Minister of Transport. Children under the age of six are exempt from the measure.
According to the airline, customers must bring their own face coverings, which will be verified, prior to security screening and during boarding, at Canadian airports. The airline added that it will not be distributing masks to customers, to ensure that the critical face masks are reserved for frontline workers.
To promote social distancing onboard, Air Canada’s gate agents will proactively be re-seating customers to keep as few people sitting next to each other as possible. If social distancing is not possible onboard certain flights, customers can choose to travel at a later date with no additional costs.
US — American Airlines temporarily shuts Admiral Club Lounges and reduces inflight F&B services
American Airline has relaxed seating policies, adjusted inflight food and beverage services, temporarily closed Admiral Club lounges, and suspended checked pet services in response to COVID-19.
American Airlines has announced that it will limit the number of passengers onboard its fleet to implement physical distancing measures as prescribed the WHO and the CDC.
The airline will not assign 50% of main cabin seats, particularly seats near flight attendant jump seats, and will only use middle seats when necessary. Gate agents will also re-assign seats to minimise passenger contact onboard.
Barring any aircraft weight or balance restrictions, customers will also be able to move to another seat onboard subject to availability.
American Airlines will maintain front desk customer services in London Heathrow Airports and in large US airports.
Hong Kong – Cathay Pacific requires passengers to wear face masks
Cathay Pacific has announced that all passengers must wear face masks from 15 May until further notice.
The temporary requirement is part of Cathay Pacific’s enhanced safety and hygiene protocols. It added that passengers must wear face masks in situations where they cannot maintain physical distancing. This includes during check-in, in lounges, during boarding, inside the aircraft cabin, and during disembarkation.
Cathay Pacific also recommends that customers wear face masks in high-traffic areas such as security checkpoints and baggage collection zones. Children under six years old are exempted from the requirement.
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Nothing is more important to us than your wellbeing. For your added protection, we now require all our passengers to wear a face covering throughout the different stages of your journey*. *This includes: – during check-in; – in our lounges; – during boarding; – in the aircraft cabin; and – during disembarkation This requirement will remain mandatory until further notice. Click the link in our bio for more details. #WeAreInThisTogether 乘客的安全一直放在我們首位，務求讓你能在旅程中保持身心安泰。為了給你更全面的保護，我們現正要求所有乘客在旅程中的不同階段均須佩戴口罩*。 *適用範圍包括： – 辦理登機手續 – 在我們的貴賓室 – 登機期間 – 在航班上 – 離開機艙期間 佩戴口罩為強制措施，直至另行通知。請查看我們的帳戶簡介，登上有關連結了解詳情。
Hong Kong — Airport makes mask-wearing compulsory
Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) has said that all departing travellers must wear face masks from 18 May until further notice.
The compulsory requirement also applies when departing passengers are on Automated People Mover (APM), Apron Passenger Vehicles or SkyPier Sea-to-Air levels. Passengers are advised to bring their own face masks. Arriving passengers are also recommended to wear face masks upon their arrival at Hong Kong International Airport.
Airport staff members are required to wear face masks in all passenger-accessible areas.
Meanwhile, body temperature screening has already been implemented at the entrances of the terminal buildings and restricted areas, as well as the arrivals levels. Passengers are advised to keep at least 1.5m from each other in queues at HKIA. Signs are in place to remind passengers of the safe distance advice.
Executive Director, Airport Operations Vivian Cheung, said, “The Airport Authority has been sparing no efforts in implementing different measures in HKIA to maintain a safe and hygienic environment for all airport users. We are working hand-in-hand with our business partners to look at the entire passenger journey and explore possible enhancement measures, with a view to strengthening passengers’ confidence.”
As reported, cleaning and disinfection efforts in HKIA’s terminal buildings and passenger facilities have been stepped up since the outbreak of COVID-19. Frequently touched surfaces are applied with antimicrobial coating and are cleaned every hour. Autonomous cleaning robots have been deployed to enhance cleaning and disinfection efficiency. Provision of alcohol hand sanitisers has been doubled and extended to all major passageways and high traffic areas inside the terminal buildings.
Germany — Frankfurt Airport adopts new sanitary and social distancing measures
Frankfurt Airport owner and operator Fraport has taken steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the areas currently open in Terminal 1, with plans to roll them out to other terminals once traffic ramps up.
“We attach top priority to the safety and health of our passengers and employees,” said Alexander Laukenmann, who heads Fraport AG’s Airside and Terminal Management, Corporate Safety and Security unit. “We are now implementing a wide range of measures to minimise the risk of infection and ensure that passengers can travel safely via Frankfurt Airport.”
New sanitary measures and social distancing (1.5m) have been put into practice in the waiting areas in front of the check-in counters, at the boarding pass and security checkpoints, and the baggage claim areas.
In rest areas, only every second seat may be used. Posters, digital displays and PA announcements in multiple languages call passengers’ attention to the social distancing rules while trained agents circulating in the terminal also offer reminders.
Where passengers and employees directly interact, plexiglass shields provide additional protection for both. When front-line staff are unable to maintain the required distance due to the nature of their work, such as at security checkpoints, they are required to wear face masks. This also applies to passengers if they board buses or enter shops at the airport. Frankfurt Airport is considering obliging all passengers, guests, meeters & greeters, and employees to don a mask when entering the terminals.
Hand disinfectant dispensers have also been installed around the terminal, and frequently touched surfaces are now cleaned and disinfected more often than usual, said the company.
“In order for these preventive measures to be truly effective,” said Laukenmann, “everyone has to do the right thing by consistently maintaining the prescribed distance from others. We have already taken appropriate steps in all areas that are currently being used or will be in the near future, and are working hard to get the rest of the airport ready as well.”
Spain — The Canary Islands set to receive the first pilot flight with UNWTO’s hi+Card health certification
The Canary Islands has been selected as the first destination to receive a pilot flight with passengers using the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Health iCard or ‘hi+Card’ certification.
The card is a secure mobile health application that certifies that a passenger is free from COVID-19.
The flight — the first of its kind in the world — is scheduled for July.
Passengers will carry the hi+Card as a digital passport, where their medical information will be uploaded by a Ministry of Health-accredited organisation.
The Health iCard is one of the digital solutions supported by the UNWTO to help boost the tourism industry once the COVID-19 crisis eases. It is a joint project between Tourism Data Driven Solutions (TDDS) and The Air Institute.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili commented, “In these exceptional times, in which the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world economy and threatened our tourism sector, innovation becomes the cornerstone of the recuperation.
Trips will no longer be as they were before. Rather, they will become safer and more sustainable, to continue providing benefits to nations and communities.”
Pololikashvili noted that the UNWTO is working on traceability systems and smart technology to minimise health risks for travellers. The Canary Islands was chosen for the hi+Card pilot flight through the joint efforts of the UNWTO and The Canary Islands Government Minister of Tourism Yaiza Castilla.
Castilla said, “The necessary steps are being taken so that passengers can travel with ease and airlines can, in turn, increase the capacity of their flights. Since this application has been configured as a digital health passport, it is able to deal with the anticipated needs for the Canary Islands destination, for travellers and for airlines, such as having the peace of mind of [being able to] safely carry their medical data and certify themselves as free of Covid-19.”
Netherlands — KLM announces compulsory wearing of face masks for passengers
KLM has required passengers to wear surgical facemasks onboard all of its flights from 11 May to 31 August.
According to the airline, passengers who do not comply may be denied boarding. Children under 10 years of age are excluded from the measure.
The airline said that the current COVID-19 situation means that airlines are operating under ‘exceptional circumstances.’
In addition to requiring passengers and crew members to wear face masks, it has also ramped up aircraft cleaning protocols and adapted inflight services to minimise contact between crew and passengers.
The airline also announced that passengers coming from high-risk areas need to fill out a health declaration to assess whether or not they are fit to fly.
KLM has also assured passengers that its High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters minimise contamination onboard.
France — Air France introduces temperature checks across all of its flights
Air France has announced that from 11 May, temperature checks will be progressively implemented across all of its flights.
The temperature checks will be carried out using contactless infrared thermometers before departure. Customers with body temperatures on or above 38*C may be denied boarding and can change their flight reservations to a later date with no extra charge.
Air France has also made the wearing of face masks compulsory on all flights, following the French government’s guidelines on the wearing of masks in public transport.
Other health, hygiene and safety measures implemented by Air France include: the compulsory wearing of masks by all crew members, modification of customer channels at the airport to adhere to social distancing protocols, implementation of physical distancing onboard, daily cleaning and disinfection of aircrafts, the spraying of virucidal products every ten days, and the adaptation of in-flight services to limit interaction between passengers and crew members.
The airline also said that current low load factors make it possible to separate passengers onboard as required. It also assured customers that its fleet is equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which renew cabin air every three minutes and extract 99.9% of viruses onboard.
Asia Pacific – Airline association calls for pragmatism
The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has called for standardised health measures to facilitate air travel. Measures must be consistent, pragmatic and risk-managed, AAPA said.
“Aviation supports 65.5 million jobs around the world, with one job in the industry supporting 24 other jobs in the wider economy, but these livelihoods are now jeopardised due to the drastic plunge in travel demand,” AAPA commented. “The United Nations World Tourism Organisation sees tourism declining as much as -80% this year. The progressive resumption of air travel would be key to helping jumpstart economic activity.
“AAPA recognises that public health measures such as widespread testing, contact tracing and social distancing are now progressively being implemented by governments across the world. Similar measures are also being discussed as conditions to the resumption of air travel, but such measures need to be consistent, coherent and coordinated amongst governments working closely together with airlines, airports and health authorities, in line with the relevant World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
“To address public confidence concerns over the safety of air travel, any measures should be practical and based on accepted medical standards, as part of a robust risk management framework.”
AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said, “Wherever possible, processes such as travellers’ health declarations should be automated and made available on mobile devices for the convenience of the travelling public. Departure screening procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should preferably be applied before travellers board their flights. Precautionary measures onboard are being discussed, and will likely include the compulsory wearing of masks by all travellers and airline crew. Other measures such as leaving the middle seat empty have been suggested, but would make air travel much more costly without any meaningful public benefit in terms of risk reduction.”
He added: “The COVID-19 pandemic is probably the greatest challenge that the global air transport industry has ever faced. The industry must introduce and adapt processes to minimise risk while at the same time restoring confidence and trust in air travel. Travelers should be able to undertake journeys with full confidence that measures are being undertaken to protect their wellbeing.”
Ireland – Inflight veteran Joe Harvey brings new service to the market
Shannon Retail Innovation, a company founded by long-time inflight retail specialist Joe Harvey, is offering support to airport, airline and other travel companies which require products to help get employees back to work and keep passengers safe. Until recently, Harvey was Senior Manager Global Boutique Development at Retail inMotion.
Any companies requiring COVID-19 antibody test kits, branded and unbranded face masks, and essential protection kits for workers and passengers should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
US – SSP visualises employee and customer safety measures
SSP America has produced a timely visual guide, shown in the image below, to keeping employees and staff safe during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. We welcome other examples from industry stakeholders so we can all fine-tune best practice. Please email any such material to email@example.com.
International – Welcome to the age of post-corona travel. The age of sanitised travel
In a brilliantly insightful new report, aviation marketing consultancy SimpliFlying has mapped out over 70 areas that would affect (or be demanded by) travellers in the post-COVID-19 landscape.
“Welcome to your flight in 2021,” says SimpliFlying Founder and CEO Shashank Nigam. “Before boarding, please walk through the disinfection tunnel and thermal scanner, and have your bags ‘sanitagged.’
“You won’t find any inflight magazine to entertain you onboard, but look out for the disinfectant wipes as part of the inflight service. And don’t count on being allowed on the aircraft if you start coughing at the gate.”
Click here to access the SimpliFlying report & infographic.
SimpliFlying describes itself as the world’s leading aviation marketing consulting firm, and notes, “Yet we behave like an agile startup. Our team is 100% remote – based in Singapore, India, Spain, UK and Canada – meaning we can provide airlines with a global and a 24/7 presence.” Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy.
USA – Robot technology deployed in Pittsburgh
In a US airport first, Pittsburgh International Airport is trialling the use of robots to disinfect high traffic areas using ultraviolet light. These robots, and the technology they use, could play a role in restoring passenger confidence in the face of COVID-19, according to the airport company.
The airport, which is operated by Allegheny County Airport Authority, has partnered with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics to use technology in a multi-layered cleaning process.
Pittsburgh, which is the only airport in the US with the specially-equipped floor cleaning machines, said it is looking to incorporate UV disinfecting technology in additional ways. This will include the sterilisation of handrails on escalators and moving walkways, elevator buttons and other high-touch areas. Full story here.
Italy – Architecture firm previews Covid-19 face mask prototype
Italian Architect Massimo Iosa Ghini has previewed a new design concept for a COVID-19 face mask. The mask was designed by an interdisciplinary creative group — brought together by Iosa Ghini — with the aim of creating new technologies to protect people against health threats.
The face mask features a transparent material, complete with breathing apparatus, that offers full-face protection and maximum visibility. According to Iosa Ghini, the face mask is ready to be mass produced.
He said, “It is a designer’s responsibility to share tangible solutions. I thought to design a new mask, aesthetically pleasant, easy to use, and above all, can be used repeatedly.”
UK – Manchester Airports Group requires passengers to wear face masks and gloves
In a UK first, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – operator of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports – has announced that, from today, passengers travelling through its airports are being asked to wear self-provided face coverings/masks and gloves.
However, in the early stages of the pilot, for those arriving without these items, MAG said the airports will provide gloves and masks that can be worn throughout passengers’ time in the terminals. Staff will also be on hand to guide passengers and help them navigate through the usual security processes while wearing protective equipment. Social distancing rules are already in place.
MAG said it believes that the new guidelines represent an important first step towards demonstrating ways in which air travel can be safe when more passengers start travelling again. It said the pilot scheme will therefore provide valuable feedback and set a path towards a new minimum standard for safe international travel.
MAG also announced that it will be conducting some limited temperature screening trials over the next few weeks. Initially, during this trial phase, this will be to test equipment and results will not be communicated to passengers or used to decide whether a passenger can travel.
Malaysia – Malaysia Airports introduces strict safety measures as domestic flights resume
Malaysia Airports has made the wearing of face masks compulsory within its terminals, introduced temperature screening and stopped entry for non-travellers, among measures to halt the transmission of COVID-19. The airports company issued guidelines this week as AirAsia and other carriers resume domestic air services.
Malaysia Airports said: “You will not be permitted to enter the terminal without a face mask. At Kuala Lumpur International Airport., we have enforced limited entry and exit points where our Aviation Security team will screen passengers on the use of the face mask as well as their body temperature.”
The airport operator has arranged for the Ministry of Health to carry out rapid screening of travellers at KLIA. It said: “All departing passengers will have to go through temperature screening before being allowed to enter the terminal building. Passengers with a body temperature of more than 37.5C will not be allowed to continue their journey.”
In addition, only travellers with a valid ticket can enter the terminals – a move sure to affect the large landside departures and arrivals dining and retail business at KLIA and klia2 – with ‘meeters and greeters’ no longer allowed entry.
The airport company is also advising travellers to arrive at least three hours before their flight to go through the new procedures.
US – Safety first approach in Orlando
Orlando International Airport (pictured below) has announced that it is taking measures to prepare for the resumption of normal commercial activity “in the coming weeks”, as the state of Orlando prepares to fully reopen.
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown said: “The safety of the travelling public is of the utmost importance to us and our partners. For the last several months, we have taken action for safe and clean facilities to best protect the travelling public and employees from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we focus on rebuilding confidence for passengers that we’re doing what we can to maintain a safe environment.”