Predictions about 21st century travel used to invoke visions of trips to outer space and flying to Australia in an afternoon.
Forget that, the real 21st century travel picture is a dystopian one involving queues, facemasks, hygiene worries and trying to find safe personal space – whether on a flight, a beach, or in a hotel dining room. Perhaps you’ll be self-isolating in quarantine at home afterwards as well.
There are already signals about what air travel will be like, with a few carriers laying down new rules. Air France is currently introducing checks of all passengers’ temperatures using contactless infrared thermometers, something that can only mean more time spent at the airport. On its flights, masks must be worn, there is no meal or beverage service on short-haul flights and on long-haul, service is “limited” and based on pre-packaged food.
Currently, there is no standard Covid-19 air passenger protocol, so Ryanair asks passengers to check their own temperature before travelling, saying only that passengers “may” be checked at the airport. All its onboard food and drink sales will be cashless and queuing for the toilets, banned.
Air France admitted that presently, “on almost all flights, the current low load factors make it possible to separate customers as required”, but added: “In cases where this is not possible, requiring all passengers and crew to wear masks ensures adequate health protection.”
Let’s hope passengers agree; meanwhile at least one aircraft seat manufacturer, Aviointeriors, is working on transparent screens to be fitted to existing aircraft seats and another concept in which the middle seat faces backwards and is shielded from adjacent passengers.