Who could have imagined that making a simple plane trip meant showing up hours early, removing your shoes, jerking out your tiny liquids, displaying your electronics, and wondering if the body scanners can see the hole in your underwear?
In the world of travel, there is Pre-9/11 and Post-9/11, and whether we liked it or not, we all adjusted. Post-COVID-19 travel will require even more adjustments and once again, if we want to travel, we’ll have to adapt to a “new normal.”
Governments and private companies are scrambling to develop strategies that enable travel while protecting the health of travelers, employees, and in-country residents as well as minimizing the spread of the virus. It’s a staggeringly complex problem, and at this point, it’s impossible to know the details. But there are a few things we can expect.
1. The hassle, expense, and time to travel will test everyone’s patience.
After 9/11 we all learned how to jump through lots of annoying security hoops, and the coronavirus will only add to our misery. Whether it’s government-mandated quarantines, proof of non-infection, or lining up for temperature checks, the hassle of getting to and from our destination is going to get worse.
Less competition caused by bankruptcies, fewer customers on fewer flights, and reduced numbers of seats from social distancing; combine all these factors and there’s no way to avoid higher airfares. Add to this the cost of an “immunity passport,” and any other required documentation, and higher travel costs are a guarantee.
In addition to more money, we’ll be spending more time. Post-pandemic, there’s a certainty of longer waits to check in and board the plane; then comes the joy of standing in seemingly endless immigration queues. And the only workable solutions for travelers are foreknowledge, planning, and patience … lots of patience.
2. Your time on the plane just won’t be the same.
Airlines and their balance sheets have been absolutely hammered by this pandemic, and their survival will require radical changes in not only how they transport passengers, but they’ll also have the new challenge of how to protect them from infection.
Before the COVID-bomb exploded, turning a profit meant squeezing more passengers into smaller and smaller seats. But with a highly communicable disease that loves people in close proximity, this strategy will no longer work.
Planes are virtually empty now, but when it’s safe to fly again, it will be a very different experience. There will be changes in seating, boarding, and food service. According to news website Axios, air travel will never be the same. They caution:
“Masks and social distancing are only the beginning.”
3. There will be an evolving patchwork of new immigration rules.
Deciding how best to deal with this pandemic has placed the entire planet in uncharted territory. Travel restrictions will be eased, and when they are, each country will be at a different stage in the course of the disease. Consequently, each will have a unique point of view on how best to handle travelers and threats to their population. A complete travel ban works in the short term, but totally closing borders forever isn’t possible … or desirable.
So what will result is an evolving patchwork of immigration procedures that will vary from country to country. Visitors from infection-hotspot countries may be banned altogether, and others might be admitted with forced quarantines. Some nations may also require a vaccination card or an infection-free medical certificate from a doctor.
And most importantly, whatever the requirements, it will be the responsibility of foreign visitors to know exactly what it takes to enter the country and prepare so they’re not refused entry.
4. Will an “Immunity Card” or COVID-19 testing work while we’re waiting on a vaccine?
The silver bullet for the coronavirus is a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, everyone’s favorite new Doc and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases predicts that a COVID-19 vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to develop and be approved for public use. So how do travelers move around in the meantime without spreading the disease?
Dubai-based Emirates Airlines recently carried out blood tests – at the airport! – on all passengers for one of their Tunisia-bound flights. Is this what our future holds? Oh please NO!
We’re hoping the solution is a bit less piercing: more along the lines of what the Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian suggested. He foresees the possibility of an “immunity passport” or some other proof of good health required at airports. There’s some disagreement in the medical community as to how, and if, these certificates would work, but eventually the details will be worked out and travelers will have to get onboard.
5. PPEs will be your new constant travel companions.
Regardless of what officials decide is best for everyone’s protection, you’ll need to pay close attention to your own health and safety by making personal protective equipment a permanent part of your road gear. Masks, hand-sanitizer, and wipes will get added to the packing list, and will always be close at hand. There will be a chance of infection in transit, but vigilance shouldn’t stop when you reach your destination – so prepare.
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When it comes to travel after the pandemic there’s no denying it’s difficult to find bright spots. But after months of gloom and doom, that flicker you see up ahead may just be a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. An isolation-fatigued world is cautiously allowing itself to think about a staged return to some version of normal, and for some of us the “new normal” includes the ability to travel again.
So begin your online search for that fashionable, non-nerdy mask (that just might make someone smile), and let’s all start imagining our next trip!
Good Health and Happy Trails,
James & Terri