Imagine it’s July 2020. You’re flying Emirates from London to Hong Kong, via Dubai. Departing from Heathrow, you face no health checks. There are announcements about maintaining social distance, but that’s about it. When you land in Dubai, your blood is drawn as Emirates is the first airline to conduct rapid-COVID-19 tests. Ten minutes later, you are cleared to board your connecting flight. When you land in Hong Kong, your temperature is checked as you disembark. Unfortunately, yours is a tad above normal. After passing through Customs and Immigration, you are escorted by staff in PPE to the nearby AsiaWorld-Expo convention centre where you are tested again. This time, you wait for 12 hours in a make-shift cardboard booth before you are allowed to exit to the city, with a tracker on your wrist. You pledge not to step onboard a plane again until a vaccine is found!
If the post-9/11 “security theatre” seemed inconsistent, the “health theatre” in the offing post-corona may appear outright chaotic to travellers.
Unless there is consistency in the measures being taken to ensure health and safety of travellers across airports and airlines it may be very hard to get people to fly again, despite low fares. This is why SimpliFlying advocates the creation of the Transport Health Authority (THA) in a recently released report called “The Rise of Sanitised Travel“.
THA: Transport Health Authority
Similar to the creation of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after 9/11, we believe there will need to be a global THA – Transportation Health Authority. There needs to be one single authority that sets global health screening standards at the airport and in-flight. This will have to be managed by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the World Health Organization and ACI (Airports Council International). The THA will define health screening and sanitation standards throughout the travel journey, including outside the airport perimeter.
In an ideal situation, we want consistent health screenings and policies around the world because inconsistency will only frustrate travellers more and suppress demand despite low fares.
Ideal case scenario
Having received feedback on our predictions in the rise of sanitised travel from seasoned airline executives, we formed a consensus on what the ideal scenario would look like. Unless you’ve already uploaded an Immunity Passport during online check-in, you’d get a quick test done upon arrival at your departure airport. Within ten minutes, your result will be sent to the mobile app and your Immunity Status tagged to your boarding pass. That’s it! You go through the rest of travel as you would have done before-corona.
While this scenario would keep frictions to a minimum, we don’t foresee it becoming a reality until rapid-tests are widely available or a vaccine is found. This is where the THA comes in – to set up consistent standards across borders until we can reach an ideal case scenario.
What will the THA do?
When I lived in Uganda a few years ago, I remember that there was a security gate about a mile before we arrived at the airport. Our vehicle was thoroughly checked, our documents verified and we were asked intrusive questions about our travel. It seemed a normal part of the security procedures in Entebbe. I believe similar measures exist in places like Tel Aviv where security concerns are heightened. The THA will need to advocate similar measures of health verification in COVID-19 hotspots, to give a strong sense of sanitation.
In the age of sanitised travel, here is what we believe should be the mandate of the THA:
- Creation of Immunity Passports, which would confirm the presence of antibodies for COVID-19 in a person. This would be similar to the Yellow Fever card we need to carry when travelling from some regions like Africa or South America.
- Regulations on whether non-travellers can enter the airports and the use of “disinfection tunnels” at curbside, jetbridge and other locations at the airport.
- Instant health checks (like Elenium’s collaboration with Etihad) for travellers without Immunity Passports.
- Health regulations for check-in agents, who we predict will be behind protective barriers, like those found in pharmacies. Updated measures for all airport staff, like wearing masks and gloves. Are PPE uniforms needed at all?
- Regulations for check-in bags and carry-on bags to be “Sanitagged” through fogging or a UV disinfection process.
- Social distancing measures at the airport and within the aircraft, including advising airlines on whether leaving the middle seat empty has any scientific backing. By the way, this is how a sneeze spreads through the cabin.
Passengers adapted to the “security theatre” after 9/11 and travel re-bounded. But security protocols remain inconsistent around the world. Post-corona travellers will need the assurance that there are no viruses on board. That should help bolster confidence to get them to start flying again. But the standards need to be consistent for this to happen. That is why we need the THA.
SimpliFlying has set up a Rapid Response Team to help airlines be ready for post-corona travel’s realities. The team has been holding Board-level briefings to orient executives with the new touchpoints. We will be happy to do a 30-minute call with your executive team to run through the detailed post-corona customer journey map. In order to help the industry, these calls are free for airlines and airports. Get in touch to set up a call.