Ready for Takeoff

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

Thinking about renewing your passport? It may not be a bad idea.

The future of air travel seemed shaky during 2020 or ‘the year of COVID-19’, but the airline industry has managed to weather this and is ready to take to the skies once again.

The pandemic has certainly made numerous permanent changes in our lives – some for the better and some for the worse. It’s no different for the airline industry. Becoming more stringent when it comes to the cleanliness and hygiene of flights and airports – the benefits of these new systems will make aeroplanes one of the safest ways to travel.

One may now find wider spaces at airports making social distancing much easier. There are multiple temperature scanners on all floors of the airport and all staff present are protected by transparent counter shields. Passengers are given PPE kits as well to wear on-board the flight. Most major carriers are disinfecting planes between flights, giving extra attention to high-touch surfaces and bathrooms. Several airlines are also equipping themselves with HEPA filters, which completely refresh the cabin air throughout the flight and work to filter out over 99% of airborne viruses, bacteria, and other contagions.

The addition of AI at airports has proven to be very useful. Now, it is not necessary for one to walk up to an information desk to receive any information, one can simply download the airport app and all the information is provided. Books which we would normally buy at one of the stores of the airport are now provided for free digitally on the app. Along with this, video channels, music streaming services and online games are also available.

However, it’s a massive understatement to say that the air industry was badly hit by the pandemic. Compared to 2019, there was a 370 billion dollars worth of revenue loss due to the ban of air travel in 2020 – and this is solely airlines. If we factor in the losses made by the supply chain as well as other subsectors, the amount increases to nearly half a trillion dollars. 

To add to this, the business travellers who were the most frequent set of flyers have now gotten used to taking Zoom meetings at the comfort of their own home instead of flying back and forth between countries. This is a huge loss for the airline industry, which will probably not see normalcy until the year 2024. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an increase in the price of flight tickets. 

During the pandemic, to cut down expenses, many pilots and cabin crew have lost their jobs. Consequently, we may see a shortage of staff soon as our lives return to normalcy. Along with this, many pilots who are still on board have understandably gotten a bit rusty after months of being unable to fly. Although none of the mistakes made has harmed the passengers in any way, they do include errors such as: forgetting to disengage the parking brake on takeoff, taking three attempts to land the plane on a windy day, choosing the wrong runway, and forgetting to turn on the anti‑icing mechanism that prevents the altitude and airspeed sensors from freezing.

The cabin crew also have the new responsibility of dealing with unruly passengers who refuse to wear their masks – occasionally leading to a brawl mid-air. Along with this, the cabin crew’s mental health has taken a toll due to the ever-present fear of contracting COVID-19, while on duty. This anxiety and depression can also be attributed to the fear of losing their jobs once more, work intensity and fatigue of on-call duty – after staying at home for so long.

While air travel was neglected for the past year or so, it is far from becoming obsolete. People yearn to be close to their loved ones, see new places and have new experiences – air travel brings them closer to their dreams. I’m sure the changes made to accommodate for the pandemic will only be favourable to them in the long run.

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