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COVID-19 and Flying: What The Friendly Skies New Normal Could Look Like
As the world is beginning to open up after a moment in time that is sure to go down in history as a game changer in many regards, we thought about how it’s going to be traveling to cover events for our fans once things go back to “normal”. We thought to get an inside perspective on what it will mostly likely be like to fly. For that, we went to our veteran flight attendant Loan Cat. Here is her professional opinion:
As you can imagine, people aren’t running to get tickets to board a cramped metal tube with recycled air amid the global pandemic COVID-19. In fact, most major airlines have cut between 60-90% of their flying and staff.
Growing up in the airline industry, I remember when I stood on the picket-line with my father in Miami, screaming at people who crossed the line at Eastern Airlines. I remember smoking, non-smoking, and first class separated by a simple blue curtain. I fondly recall many birthdays onboard an aircraft, where Flight Attendants would sing happy birthday, while bringing me a cupcake and lit candle! I recall delicious meals for the entire airplane, and not just first class.
I also remember what the deregulation of the industry did to those legacy carriers. Images of Pan Am, KLM, TWA; where the children would smile adoringly towards Pilots and Flight Attendants. I also remember how quickly those airlines faded away. I remember the impact 9-11 had on the industry. How quiet the skies were for months afterwards. How the screening and process of flying changed.
After 9-11, the US gave birth to TSA and 3-1-1 liquid policies. After the shoe bomber, new policies on shoes and jackets were initiated. The underwear bomber brought-forth body scanners. What will post-COVID-19 bring? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Some airlines are requiring passengers to don personal masks for travel. Continued temperature screening prior to boarding may be a process that stays implemented for future travel. Cutbacks on inflight service to protect crew members may be a new norm. Social distancing may continue for a period of time.
In the past, on average, a single-aisle domestic flight takes about an hour to turn around from door opening to door closing. Broken down, that’s approximately 10-15 minutes to deplane passengers, 10-15 minutes to clean and cater, (and that’s if they don’t change crews - if there’s a crew change, 10 of those minutes are taken by security search, and safety equipment checks) and most importantly a crew brief for the upcoming flight. It then takes between 30-45 minutes to board the new passengers.
With COVID-19 cleaning procedures, it takes an additional 15-20 minutes to ensure the interior of the aircraft is cleaned. Even with the reopening of countries and states, I don’t foresee the new cleaning standards diminishing, creating longer boarding times. If social distancing continues, and middle seats are left open, who’s left to pick up the sales difference? (I’ll let your imagination go on that one.)
Moving forward, if you’re planning on getting on an airplane to head to the next competition, wear a mask, bring your own non-liquid snack, and be prepared to spend more time at the airport prior to your departure. Oh, and definitely use the bathroom prior to boarding.... trust me!