Who is ready with the good news?
Well, we might not hear any good news, especially in the world of travel, for some time. But that does not mean we cannot speculate about positive developments in the post-COVID world.
From better environmental protection to more flexible booking options, here are some ways that I think can improve travel in the long run.
A more flexible change and cancellation policy
Many of us have become too familiar with the specifics of our trip cancellation policies this spring, because we are rushing to change and cancel plans without paying.
To their credit, a large portion airline and hotel finally offering flexible changes and cancellation policies throughout the spring. But many travelers are stuck paying fees or (at best) spending a few hours on the phone.
Many come out of trials hoping they have ordered Southwest airlines, which always offers very flexible tariffs. This not only bodes well for Southwest post-COVID, but also means that all airlines may offer policies that are more flexible in the long run to match customer demand.
Many other airlines have quietly increased these costs over the past few years, making them at the center of their business strategy. I hope that customers, including me, will track changes in these costs with more attention in the future, forcing airlines to provide more customer-friendly policies after the journey continues.
A better online travel tool
Airline and hotel customer service centers have been hammered this month as thousands of customers pick up the phone to change or cancel their plans. Many airlines ask customers not to call unless they are scheduled to travel within a few days, and I have heard many horror stories about multi-hour waiting times trying to reach third-party booking services such as Chasing after a trip and Booking.com.
This disaster raises the question: Why do we still use the telephone to manage travel in 2020?
Many airlines, hotels and online travel agents offer online booking management tools, of course, but they prove to be too inflexible to handle temporary policy changes caused by the pandemic. The result: Customers must pick up the phone to change their reservation.
Not only is phone-based customer service frustrating customers, it’s also expensive for the airline itself. Hopefully airlines will use some of their federal bailout money to improve their own technology and eventually make many of these phone calls obsolete.
Better aircraft sanitation
One of my biggest occupational hazards has always been – even before the pandemic – contagious disease. Usually this means catching a cold or flatulence during a trans-oceanic flight, so it’s more a nuisance than a serious problem to date.
The airline quickly launched improved aircraft cleaning and air sanitation procedures at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to calm alert customers, which raises the question: Why isn’t this procedure always standard?
Whether mandated by the government or persuaded by customer requests, I hope we see this sanitation procedure last long after the scourge of this pandemic. At the very least, it seems that the whole world will follow in Asia’s footsteps in wearing a mask when flying.
Packing a few hundred people into a small metal tube will always carry an increased risk of communicable diseases, but hopefully we will see airlines, governments, and individuals do more to reduce this risk.
Reducing carbon emissions
Here is a silver lining to the COVID cloud: We will see an unprecedented reduction in carbon emissions as air and land travel approach a halt. Clearly, it is not economically sustainable, but it does provide an opportunity to reconsider the environmental impact of air travel.
Shortly before the pandemic, Delta Air Lines had committed $ 1 billion for a 10-year plan to become carbon neutral. This main initiative has not received much attention in the travel blog circle, but perhaps this year’s emissions reductions will remind us of the impact of air travel on the environment and motivate us to keep the momentum going.
Right now I’m crouching in Los Angeles, where the sky is suddenly clear. That makes me wonder why it takes a global pandemic to ultimately reduce our carbon footprint. Maybe it’s time to reconsider what “essential” travel means when restrictions begin to lift.
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Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samsambutdif.
Articles What Positive Travel Trends Can Come From Coronavirus? originally appeared on NerdWallet.
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