COVID-19 changes air travel

As we watch airlines go bankrupt and see borders remain closed, many travellers are wondering if there will be a travel industry for them to return to after lockdown. Airline travel hasn’t been this low since the 1960s, so how can we expect the industry to recover?

“We’ve got about 90 per cent of the domestic seat capacity not flying,” says Dr Dean Headley from Wichita State University. He explains that it took around two years for the industry to fully recover after the 20 per cent reduction in seat capacity following the September 11 attacks. “This recovery will certainly take longer,”  he says.

Dr Headley admits that the industry hasn’t figured out exactly how the virus will affect safety measures, but it may lead to an increase in security and screenings, to help determine who is and isn’t let on an aircraft. “Airlines and travellers are being cautious and for good reason. And I think they will continue to be cautious about the return to flying and keep the public’s interest in mind.”

When asked how the impact of coronavirus is different to the impact following the September 11 attacks, Dr. Headley said: “I think the biggest difference is the nature of the fear. It is very difficult to put a face on what we should be cautious about with coronavirus. It’s our spouse, our neighbour. It’s a doorknob. It’s a seat in an airplane. It can be anywhere. It’s faceless. It is hard to see until it is too late. The fear that kept people from flying after 9/11 is different than the fear we have with this coronavirus.”

He acknowledges that some airlines may go under as a result of the virus, which will limit the amount of choice we have about when and where we can travel.

When Global Travel Media asked Dr Headley for some final comments, he said, “Be encouraged by all that is being done to bring this coronavirus under control. This crisis will pass, but it will change the flying experience as well as our daily lives … It’s hard to say exactly how at this point. I think one thing this has taught us is that … literally, the world is interconnected, and we must be aware of what’s going on all around us.

“Travellers must be informed and be prepared to take care of themselves. Whether it’s a glitch in a reservation or a missed connection or a health issue, you must be prepared to take care of yourself because, while the airlines try their best, they can’t do that for you. You must be responsible for your own outcomes as much as possible. Do not act out of fear, but act from a sense of personal responsibility for yourself and those around you.”


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