The airlines will soon start operating again. What can passengers expect? Wearing a protective mask is only one of several requirements.
Several European airlines, including Swiss and Easy Jet, will resume air traffic in June after a standstill of more than two months with a greatly reduced flight schedule. Great efforts are required to comply with the regulations issued by the authorities in the fight against the corona virus also in cross-border traffic. The airlines and the airports are making numerous preparations behind the scenes, with passengers taking a distance before, during and after the flight as a key requirement.
Measuring body temperature
Also because the confidence of unsettled customers is likely to return slowly, it should be feasible in the summer months, at the airport in front of the check-in counter, at baggage claim and also at security or entry control a distance of at least 1.5 meters to adhere to. For this purpose, the airports will put markings on the floor, as you know them from shopping. The industry association Iata (International Air Transport Association) recommends making all possible preparations at home before departure, such as filling out international travel certificates or printing out boarding and luggage cards. Boarding passes on the smartphone should become the norm.
Anyone arriving at the airport will probably have to wear a face mask before entering the building, which they will hardly ever take off during the flight. Infrared thermometers are used before or immediately after the security check, as fever could indicate a Covid 19 disease. Air France has already announced that customers with a body temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius will not be able to travel with it. This precaution is already practiced in many Asian countries. In the meantime, the responsible EU authorities have also issued the recommendation not to let customers with a body temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius on board.
Air purification in the cabin as protection
The responsible European authorities in Europe, EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control), in a detailed protocol on protective measures in Covid-19 times, continue to require that the distance rule of all parties must be observed. It is also recommended to repeatedly disinfect hands before, during and after the flight. In the cabin, the rules for taking a distance are somewhat less strict: for example, keeping the middle seat free in economy class or – even more strictly – the distance of 1.5 meters from passenger to passenger is not required. It is explicitly said that flexibility in the allocation of seats is allowed. Families or members of the same household are likely to come together.
The fact that partition walls made of plexiglass are inserted between the seats for shielding is discussed in the industry, but is not really considered. That would not be possible without tests lasting several months and an EASA permit, as Swiss CEO Thomas Klühr recently said in an interview with the NZZ.
Air France recently issued a press release explaining the comparatively large regime in the cabin. The air circulating in the cabin is filtered at short intervals, so that particles up to 0.01 micrometers in diameter are extracted; a corona virus has a diameter between 0.08 and 0.16 micrometers. Nevertheless, everything possible should be done on board to minimize physical contacts and the risk of infection. The cabin staff are instructed by the EU authorities to wear gloves in addition to the protective mask and to change their uniforms every day.
Because of Covid-19, there will be no food, newspapers, duty-free items and hardly any drinks on European flights. Of course, the cabins and contact points at the airport – an example is the check-in counter – are regularly disinfected.
No tohuwabohu because of the luggage
If the passenger arrives at the destination airport, he will in turn complete a distance course and will probably also have to endure the measurement of body temperature. The EU authorities state that if such a precautionary measure was taken for all passengers within the EU before departure, this would no longer be necessary after arrival in the EU.
The delivery of the luggage will follow a pre-defined procedure. It will hardly be expedient for everyone to jostle at a baggage sorting system so that they can quickly grab their suitcases. The protective masks will have to be disposed of in special containers at the airport exits.
In the Iata assessment, the temporary measures recommended by the EU authorities will only be effective if they are harmonized across Europe. This is not an easy undertaking, because different entry regulations currently apply depending on the country; Every day there are reports of the relaxation of travel restrictions by individual countries, a lot is in flux. The recent advance of Italy at the opening of the border has shown this. And when it comes to intercontinental flights, the regime may still have a few nuts in transit at transfer airports such as London Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt or Zurich.
Depending on the destination airport, entry may be easier, or quarantine regulations apply, as is currently the case in Spain. It goes without saying that a 14-day quarantine acts as a deterrent to tourists or business travelers. However, entry elsewhere is also subject to conditions. Anyone who studies the international travel certificate required by the French Ministry of the Interior for immigrants must conclude that a tourist in the Paris area is not yet welcome these days.
Another example: If you are traveling to Athens, you will obviously have to take a Covid 19 test with a throat swab after arriving at the airport and wait in the hotel for the result before the way to the beach, a restaurant or a museum is clear. It will therefore be important for both customers and airlines to clarify all requirements, including those in a transit airport, and to prepare the appropriate forms before traveling.
When it comes to an immunity passport or performing Covid 19 tests, the EU authorities are still reluctant to make recommendations because of the scientific basis they consider to be unclear.