New Future: Higher prices, de-densification, behaviour changes

It seems the post-Covid19 world is going to be one very different to what came before. In responsible parts of the world where people’s lives matter more than corporate profits, thoughts are already focused on what to do about getting us airborne safely.

From the minute we check in, our temperature is likely to be checked, that’s if we don’t need a positive permission to even fly, from an app that tells us we’re not a carrier of the virus or immunised. That’s already happening in China and others are working on it.

Airlines will be at least initially, blocking the middle seat, already labelled “de-densification”, out of economy threes like they do in business class. And that class will all but vanish on flights under six hours.

Reduced seat availability may not be an issue initially, but as things eventually improve two things have to happen.

To safely unblock the seat, there has to be a widespread vaccination program, 80% of us need to be immune.

Passengers confidence has to reach the point they want to fly and feel safe doing it.

Reduced passenger numbers will mean higher prices on aircraft that were intended to carry 33% more passengers. There’s no way round that in the short term. People just won’t be able to fly as easily or afford it as they did, especially if the economic picture remains grim for a year or more after the first wave is over.

Airlines won’t be offering the food services they did – if they bothered at all on short haul flights. Flying will become a utilitarian minimalist experience like we haven’t yet seen. There’s every chance passengers will be asked to wear masks, not to stop them getting anything, but to stop them spreading it.

Long haul economy is also going to prove to be a similar experience. Those 9, 10 or 11 seat across wide bodies will be blocked off to a max of 6 to 8. Some rows will be available for families at extra cost and pre-booked.

Premium Economy outer seats are usually used by couples, they will have to prove it. Or just one person can sit alone. The four seat middle row will be either families or restricted to two.

Business class and above where there is all-aisle access and one person seating will likely not change. It’s no coincidence again, that the more money you have the less you have to suffer mixing with others.

In a litigious society no airline is going to want to be sued for doing too little to ensure safety of either its passengers or its crews.

Passengers will only fly again if they think they are safe, or desperate enough to risk it.

Surveys out of the U.K. this week for example showed that 93% of people DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK TO THE WAY THINGS WERE BEFORE.

Thats a staggering statement and a shocking statistic. People accept they shouldn’t and don’t need to travel so much by car, appreciate lower air pollution, would be less willing to fly sitting near strangers, feel closer to their families, and learn to appreciate their local environments.

But one of the biggest things people appreciated? Politeness, slower pace of life and willingness to be more considerate of others. Now that’s been a problem on aircraft for ever but it’s also been getting to be a problem that’s needed addressing. Is this pandemic going to make us think twice about others and their feelings before we tilt the seat back and fling their coffee in their lap?

Restrictions will have to happen to start with. We cannot be here in a years time and the whole thing comes back – as it did in the 1918 pandemic – that returned in 1919 and 1920 and for a short time in 1921 killing 50,000,000 people around the world.

It’s going to be hard to get our heads round some of the changes, it’s going to be hard for airlines to implement them. But change is coming. As Lufthansa’s CEO said, “Nothing is going to be the same”.