When it comes to the pandemic, no industry has been hit quite so hard as the aviation and travel industry. The spread of COVID 19 has meant border closures or strict entry procedures, causing even the hardiest traveller to head home.
However, with vaccination rates increasing around the globe, the world is adapting to some sort of ‘new normal’. But what does this ‘new normal’ look like for the aviation industry?
Here are some facts and predictions for the future of flying after COVID.
Some places have been open for tourism for a while
Very few places in the world have been untouched by the COVID pandemic – and those that were have had some of the strictest border regulations.
However, some destinations, like Mexico, have seen travellers fly in and out of their borders since reasonably early on in the pandemic. Mexico has generally focused on local lockdowns, enabling some regions to carry on earning money from tourists.
Using Mexico as an example, at the time of writing, you don’t need to do a COVID test (although it is recommended to keep people around you safe) or be vaccinated. When you land, you merely fill out a COVID form along with your migration form.
Others are taking a while to open up
In contrast, there are many places in Asia and Australasia where you still can’t fly to. Things are slowly improving – Thailand has opened its borders for fully vaccinated tourists in the last couple of weeks, and Australia has launched plans to open borders for citizens and their relatives.
However, other nations, like China and Mongolia, still have strict quarantine requirements and will only issue visas to certain people (i.e. not tourists!).
People are flying for leisure travel more
Many aviation and travel companies see the business and leisure markets as two completely different sectors. Of course, both can be lucrative, but business travellers typically spend more money on flights (as they often use business class) and stay in high-end hotels.
For now, business travel is a fraction of what it once was. People are taking meetings via Zoom and collaborating on Slack. For any engagements that don’t need to be abroad, businesspeople are forfeiting the border constrictions and taking them from the comfort of their own homes.
This means that industries and destinations are focusing more and more on leisure travel. However, due to only part of the world being open, there’s a clear contrast between international travel in different destinations.
For example, the US has recently reopened its borders to fully vaccinated European tourists. The glittering city of Las Vegas has become a popular hotspot once again, with tourists from all over the globe trying their luck on physical slots, after most of the world being limited to online slots because of the pandemic.
In contrast, the Asian gambling city of Macau is not currently letting in foreigners, and their casinos “are betting on a slow recovery from COVID 19”. While leisure travel is getting back to normal in some parts of the world, in others, such as Asia, previous international tourist hotspots can resemble ghost towns.
Asia may be the first place where business travel returns
While leisure travel is slow to come back in Asia, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has predicted it may be the first place business travel returns.
The WTTC thinks that business travel may reach ⅔ of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. Due to the number of large international businesses based in Asia and the vast megacities in the continent like Shanghai, Bangkok and Tokyo, there are predictions that Asia is the continent best suited for the return of business travel.
People want to be more sustainable, so will opt for airlines with sustainable policies
Throughout the COVID crisis, another issue has been at the forefront of everybody’s minds: the climate.
When the world stopped in March 2020, and many countries were in lockdown, carbon emissions fell dramatically. However, they started rising again when people began to travel once more.
When flying in the future, passengers may consider green aviation. This involves choosing more sustainable airlines who are undertaking practices like using greener fuels and streamlining vehicles to make them more efficient.
Other people may choose to fly directly, limiting carbon emissions, or fly to a particular city or transport hub and take a train or bus from there.
Mask wearing may continue
At the moment, masks are required on most planes. You might wonder how long there will be a mandate for – the answer is, it’s unsure. Airlines are slow to reverse safety changes, so some may require a mask mandate for a long time yet.
Flights may be cancelled
If you’re booking flights in the near future, be prepared for them to be cancelled or changed. The good news is, if this happens, you will either be entitled to a refund or free change. The bad news is, if you have somewhere that you urgently need to be, you might not make it!
Due to still comparatively low numbers of people flying, some just aren’t full enough and are cancelled. So make sure that you factor this into your plans if travelling internationally.
Prices may fluctuate
Right now, flights are fairly cheap as still, limited numbers of people are flying. But this could all change. When increasing numbers of people decide to fly, airline prices are likely to hike up prices.
At the moment, they are still trying to attract passengers with lower prices. But once tickets are in demand again, and demand outweighs supply, airlines may try to earn back some of the money they lost in the pandemic.
Basically, expect some fluctuation in flight costs for some time yet!
There are calls for border restrictions to be consistent, but for now, they still vary
At the moment, border restrictions vary from place to place. Some require full vaccination, some need a negative PCR test result, and some have mandates for both.
It can be very confusing – so check the individual requirements for every country you are going to before travelling.
There have been calls from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to simplify these border restrictions and make them universal. However, many countries have had their own health checks and entry requirements since well before COVID – for example, many countries in South America and Africa require travellers to have had a yellow fever vaccine.
It’s unlikely that there will ever be a ‘one size fits all’ policy regarding COVID entry requirements, but the rules may at least become a little more streamlined in the future.
People all over the world are desperate to travel again – and we understand why! It’s a bit of an uncertain time to be travelling by air, but it’s definitely feasible. Just be aware of the restrictions of where you are travelling to and make sure that you allow for flight changes or cancellations. The trip away will be worth it!