(CNN) – As the world slowly comes out of the lock-up of Covid-19, we are on the verge of a new era in air travel. We were soon able to find robotic cleaning forces patrolling the airport, disinfecting check-in counters and ticket kiosks. We might see passengers speeding through security checkpoints and luggage without touching anything. And we might get on a plane where hand movements and eye movements open up overhead storage and navigate the entertainment screens on our flights. Everything can be touch free. Going out in your customized uniform, came the anti-Covid-19 style astronaut stewardess attire. Most of these concepts are trials but can soon turn into reality everywhere like biometric gates and body scanners that have become accustomed to at airport terminals. From cloud to cloud As we move from the virtual world of meeting Zoom and Chat Houseparty back to the sky, what do dots look like along the way – and when do things go? “I make assumptions, and I think many of our clients make assumptions, that at some point in 2021, this will be largely behind us,” Alex Dichter, senior partner at McKinsey & Company, told CNN Travel. Dichter points to strict measures implemented in China that require validation that passengers are free from Covid 19, using a system where passengers travel with QR codes that are green, yellow or red. Green means they have been tested and are free of viruses, and the authorities know exactly where the passengers have been. “You need to scan and scan out from each location, your temperature is checked several times, you sign the form. It’s hard to imagine the type of process implemented in the West.” But data and tracking are the keys to our return to heaven. Dichter suspects that several countries will focus on this. Therefore a protocol needs to be made so that if a passenger tests a 19-positive Covid after being on the plane, the airline can contact every other passenger on the plane. “Airlines will take this opportunity to accelerate self-service. That is a trend that has been around for some time, but airlines may be slower at improving this technology than many customers want,” he said. Until now, new technology was fully realized, passengers returning to the air might have to be satisfied with what was already out there. Therefore, said Dichter, “there might be a little more focus on premium products, giving people the ability to be alone” – long been the aspiration of weary business travelers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released an official statement on May 5, out against blocking the middle seat on the plane, while recommending both passengers and crew members wear face masks on the ship instead. In the long run, the financial turmoil facing airlines combined with customer sensitivity to prices can bring us back to a world where airlines take goods and become leaner to reduce prices. “If we look at the state of the industry in 2022, 2023 and 2024, the big question about what air travel will be like has more to do with the economic collapse than it has to do with viruses,” Dichter said. Passports, boarding passes, maskQatar Airways have introduced PPE suits for the crew. Courtesy Qatar Airways In the new era of aviation, we can expect personal protective equipment (PPE) to be an integral part of the passenger experience as airlines begin to demand – rather than demand – its use. European airlines Lufthansa, Air France and KLM have made mandatory masks for passengers and crew. In the United States, Delta, United, American Airlines, and JetBlue have introduced similar steps. Air Canada has mandated its use since April 20. In Asia, Singapore Airlines, Air Asia and Cathay Pacific have also made mandatory masks. Qatar Airways, in the Middle East, is one of several airlines that has introduced PPE suits for cabin crew in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. “At least for the whole of 2020, passengers will wear masks,” said Federico Heitz, CEO of Kaelis, the airline’s on-board inventory manufacturer that provides more than 20 airlines with PPE for crew and passengers. Heitz told CNN Travel that there was a high demand for Personal Protective Pocket Bags (SP.3), a package that included masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes, and info leaflets with tips on how to prevent the spread of the virus. The bag can be adjusted to suit airline branding. “It will be like a new convenience kit for a long time that I expect,” Heitz said. “What will happen five years from now depends on whether they find the vaccine and about how the virus evolved. For now, we definitely need protection.” But who pays the costs? “This is public health. My view is that it must be given to all for free,” Heitz said. “Wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting yourself; it’s about protecting other passengers.” Healthy health bill. While the airport terminal is still largely quiet, initiatives are underway to verify the passenger health preflight and ensure that the airport is very clean. Various technologies are now in the pilot phase. That includes the silent kiosk that is activated to monitor the temperature, heart and breathing rate of passengers before check-in. It is being developed in partnership between Etihad Airways and the Australian company Elenium Automation, and is undergoing tests at Abu Dhabi Airport. Joerg Oppermann of Etihad said this technology is an early warning indicator that will help identify symptoms that can be assessed by medical experts to help prevent further transmission. This system automatically suspends the process of check-in or drop-bag self-service if the vital signs of a passenger indicate potential symptoms of the disease. “We believe it will not only help in the current Covid-19 outbreak but also into the future by assessing the suitability of passengers to travel and thus minimizing disruptions,” Oppermann said. Inside, passengers and airport staff undergo temperature checks before entering closed channels for 40-second sanitation procedures, using “photocatalyst” and “nano needle” technology. In other initiatives at HKIA, invisible antimicrobial coatings that destroy germs, bacteria, and viruses are applied to high-touch surfaces at terminals such as kiosks, counters and trolleys. Hong Kong Airport also tested an autonomous Intelligent Sterilization Robot equipped with ultraviolet light sterilization. who roam the airport, disinfect passenger facilities. Final speed “Experiments at a number of airports with UV lights, cleaning robots and other technologies are part of efforts to minimize the distance needed if you want to maintain passenger throughput at the airport,” said Cristiano Ceccato, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, the new Beijing Daxing Airport designer opened. “Otherwise,” he told CNN Travel, “you will need a bigger airport to separate people.” For a very long future, Ceccato ponders a possible scenario where passengers have some kind of chip injected in their arm. who continuously monitor their health, the “Star Trek” style. It will start beeping if it detects they have been infected with something. “We are not there yet. And then, of course, there are ethical questions about people’s privacy and invasion of civil liberties. We used to joke that today’s airport is basically an airport mixed with shopping centers. Now airports can be mixed with hospitals. “A shorter period of time, Ceccato anticipates that airports can have some form of high-tech arching that can be passed by passengers who scan metals, liquids and gels, and also check passenger health. “These things are on their way, but we don’t know exactly when that will happen. Many ideas for this type of technology are linked to people’s profiles,” he said. Another motivation behind the adoption of security and health technology at airports is to accelerate the flow of passengers through terminal checkpoints by reducing human-to-human contact, or contact between passengers and conveyor belts and trays in security. “Finally at the airport, you won’t have to wrestle with removing laptops and hand-wash bags from your hand luggage, and you won’t have to deal with security personnel groping your things,” Ceccat said. While architects find out how to adjust airport to accommodate all new additional health screening and sanitation technology, Ceccato said that on the bright side, “it might be convincing for passengers to know, after going through all these preflight checks, that their health is in good condition.” Dogs are now being trained to detect people infected with coronavirus. CNN Max Foster Report. In the air The main focal point for air travel is aircraft interiors, and this is where traditionally there is a prolonged interaction between passengers and the surface of the cabin – seats, in-flight entertainment systems, toilets and other furniture. “There might be a future for storage to be gesture-based, where passengers don’t have to touch the handle, just wave their hands to raise or lower the door,” said Devin Liddell, Teague’s main futurist, Seattle-based design consultant who created the Dreamliner cabin and the interior of every Boeing aircraft since 1940. Another area where Liddell believes airlines will focus on restoring passenger confidence will be an antimicrobial surface application. “That would be great,” Liddell said. “I think airlines actually only announce the cleanliness of their planes and the process they use to clean planes will be something we see in the near and long term, as well as touting a sophisticated system that removes viruses from the air …” When things that touches being bad etiquette in the cabin, the in-flight entertainment system designer will need to come up with a new approach. “Finally, we will see a user interface based on tracking eye movements when it comes to in-flight entertainment systems, so it doesn’t have to touch the IFE system at all,” Liddell said. The long-term opportunity to enhance the experience on board is to rethink the layout of the passenger cabin. “Airlines must be smarter in the Covid-19 world by making zoning cabins, and various airlines have played around with child-free zones and so on,” Liddell said. But one of the biggest challenges in the cabin is in-flight catering. In the early days of the virus, the carrier stopped serving food to minimize the crew having to walk up and down the aisles. Liddell saw the opportunities of robotics and automation in the cabin to take on many catering tasks. “Galley trains in particular are a strange technology in the sense that it blocks the aisles, and makes parts of the aircraft inaccessible during meal services.” “There is an opportunity for aisle-based robot that will bring food to you, maybe when you want it, versus when the airline decides it will give it to you,” he said. People have talked In the end, whether passengers will feel confident enough to go up to the sky depends on consumer confidence and feelings among passengers whether airlines adequately address their concerns about Covid-19 and its relation to air travel. To measure this, the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the International Aviation Services Association commissioned Fethr’s data consultant, the Black Swan Data flight wing, to assess passenger sentiment. Using data analysis and predictive analysis, Fethr analyzed more than 900 million conversations that occur naturally on Twitter, news, blogs, and reviews related to Covid-1 9 and air travel. “More than a third of the current conversation relating to safety and sanitation on board is very negatively charged,” Will Cooper, insight director at Fethr, told CNN Travel. “Passengers express their concern and frustration about not knowing whether it is safe to travel or how they protect themselves and it is not clear about what the airlines are doing.” Perhaps one of the longest trips facing airlines at present is restoring passenger confidence. Paul Sillers is an aviation journalist who specializes in passenger experience and air travel technology in the future. Follow him on @paulsillers.
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