What will flying look like post COVID-19? Emirates Airlines provides clues

Airline that grounded most flights implementing new safety measures ahead of takeoff

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2019 file photo, an Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On Sunday, March 22, 2020, long-haul carrier Emirates said it would suspend all passenger flights beginning Wednesday, March 25, 2020, over the effects of the global new coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Traveling is sure to look different when the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Helane Becker, an analyst with the investment bank Cowen, told Forbes it could take two to five years before airline passenger numbers return to the levels of 2019.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, there are previews of possible changes to the future of flight.

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Experts say flyers should expect to see health screenings and longer waits when flying.

After Sept. 11, 2001, security screenings and bag inspections by the TSA led to longer lines and wait times.

After the pandemic, screening for coronavirus will likely become the new norm of the travel experience, at least until a vaccine is created and put into widespread use. But health officials say that could take years.

Thus far, the U.S. has been slow to introduce health checks for departing and arriving passengers.

Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, is at the forefront of announcing changes and implementing new security measures.

After grounding most of its passenger flights, Emirates is slowly restarting its operations in a world stricken with the fear of getting sick.

To keep passengers and employees safe, the Dubai-based airline began rapid pre-boarding COVID-19 testing at a Dubai Airport earlier this month.

The quick blood test, taken at the airport, was able to provide results within 10 minutes, however, the tests are not said to be reliable.

"We are working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights, this will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates. The health and safety of staff and passengers at the airport remain of paramount importance,” Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer said.

According to the airline, passengers are also required to wear their own masks and practice social distancing when at the airport and while on board the plane.

Another way Emirates is helping stop the spread of the coronavirus is by keeping vacant seats in between individual passengers or family groups and not allowing cabin baggage on flights, Bloomberg reports.

“Seats are pre-allocated with vacant seats placed between individual passengers or family groups in observance of physical distancing protocols,” the airline said.

Other changes consumers may see in a post-coronavirus world are cheaper flights, a welcomed idea for many.

According to aviation consultant Robert W. Mann Jr., once stay-at-home orders and lockdown are lifted, airlines will likely offer hot deals to hopefully get the cautious to set aside their fears and travel again.

“You’ll have to pinch yourself and say, ‘Why am I not doing this?’” Mann Jr. said.

Other likely changes are cleaner cabins and more distant flight attendants.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, officials have ordered that restrooms be cleaned in-flight after being used by ten passengers, or every two hours to reduce risks of virus transmission.

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