Guest blog – Chris Hellawell, Director of Account Management
Every day we’re seeing airlines restarting routes, hotels reopening their doors and countless new safety and wellness measures from the industry, which are all being designed to help give travellers comfort that it is safe to start travelling again.
To some, the idea of being in a confined space, with people who you don’t know for 2/3/4 hours+ is a no-go. So how can we, as an industry, help alleviate some of those concerns? Is it really safe to travel again?
“All the data we can look at tells us that aeroplanes are less of a risk than any equivalent public place [such as] bus, train, restaurant or a workplace,” said Dr David Powell, medical adviser at IATA.
In a recent survey, would-be passengers were asked to rank the top three measures that would make them feel safer: 37% cited COVID-19 screening at departure airports; 34% agreed with mandatory wearing of facemasks; and 33% noted social distancing measures on aircraft.
Airlines have been quick to respond – offering contactless airport experiences alongside practical measures such as personal hygiene kits whilst onboard.
Most airlines will now offer a completely touch-free passage through the airport and onto the plane, with passengers able to check-in online via an app, print their luggage tag, drop their bag using a kiosk, self-scan their boarding passes etc.
The measures also ensure the safety of the crew – who have changed their usual tailored uniforms for disposable, single-use jumpsuits and face masks.
One thing airlines didn’t have to worry about was their cabin air quality – with most modern aircraft already fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which capture over 99.999% of germs, including Coronavirus, and are akin to the standard of air you would find in surgical operating theatres.
The worry of social distancing onboard is more of a challenge. That said, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) published their “Take-Off” guidance, which consulted with medical experts from around the world and noted there are several other natural barriers to the transmission of the virus on board, including the forward orientation of passengers (limiting face-to-face interaction), seatbacks that limit transmission from row-to-row, and the limited movement of passengers in the cabin.
To add further assurances, some countries are mandating the requirement for passengers to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test, which helps to guarantee the safety of all onboard.
The hotel industry has also been quick to respond, publishing their already-stringent cleaning protocols. IHG, who has hotels such as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn have removed high-touch furniture from rooms, implemented touch-free check-in experiences and even use electrostatic technology to ensure a covid-free environment.
I think it’s important to remember that we all have a shared responsibility to ensure we’re not helping with the spread of the virus – ensuring hands are washed regularly, use anti-bacterial gels and wearing a face mask.
Tim Clark, President of Emirates, said “There is no silver bullet that offers a 100% guarantee against contracting Covid-19, or any other infection for that matter, short of putting people in a bubble from the moment they leave their homes. It’s impossible to entirely eliminate risk, but collectively all these measures help further reduce risk of exposure and transmission.”
Emirates are even offering free Covid-19 insurance, to every passenger, as they are confident that their measures will help prevent the risk of infection – and if not, they will cover all Covid-19 related costs such as treatments, quarantines etc.
So, that brings me to my earlier question – is it safe to travel again? I would say yes. The amount of additional screenings, safety measures, touch-free and contactless processes have been well-thought and, while we can’t guarantee there won’t be transmission of the virus, there should be confidence in the industry that we’re doing everything to mitigate the risks.