The new face of travel: the EU’s plans to get you back in the skies

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While the public is still engaged on social media debating whether airports should open any time soon, the EU is forging ahead with its plans to make travel a reality as early as this Summer.

Many countries around the continent have started to ease social restrictions throughout this month, and talk of a re-opening of airports, the creation of travel bubbles and actually getting to travel, all elements which were thought of unlikely a mere month ago, are suddenly, quickly for some, back on the agenda.

Yet, before rushing to plan your next destination, some very important changes are to be taken in consideration. Not a change or two, but twenty-eight pages of guidelines issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency that will radically change the whole experience as we know it.

According to the EU’s air safety body new travel kit, wearing of masks will be mandatory throughout all the journey, except for children under six. Any goodbyes and welcome backs with relatives and friends have to happen outside the airport building. And, having luggage, passport and tickets, might not get you walking through the aisle, waiting in anticipation for your captain’s announcement: airport staff may ask you to step in specially-designed booths to check if you show any signs of Covid-19.

These guidelines were designed in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control following a request by the European Commission as part of a wider package of measures to prompt the safe restoration of transport services and connectivity following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The safety of passengers and crews has always been paramount in aviation,” European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said.  “Passengers have to have confidence that taking to the skies again in a confined space with other people poses the minimum possible risk to their health. We relied on our specialists from EASA and ECDC to define a set of concrete measures for the safe resumption of air travel within the EU. The protocol released today will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and so help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic.”

How your trip changes

There will be restrictions on hand luggage, and no onboard duty free or food trolleys. That’s a challenge for some, though most probably will rejoice not being sold lottery tickets by low cost airlines.

People will be required to stand 1.5 metres from each other, with floor markets to assist the numerically-impaired. However, the Agency does acknowledged that this distance might not be possible to maintain within every area of the airport, thereby recommending additional measures relating to hand hygiene. A few days ago, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO was reported in the British media to estimate that physical distancing prior to boarding the larger jets would entail queues of a kilometre.

As expected, airport staff will need to don facemasks at all times, while protective Perspex barriers will likely feature at check-in desks. However those members of the security team performing body checks will have to wear face shields, while the screening trays will have to be disinfected with regularity.

If the current situation will make travel less enjoyable, there will be a few benefits too. EASA wants airlines to install better air filters and to disinfect after every flight the passenger trays, surely an improvement on the previous experiences of many. On the plus side for those worried about prices increasing drastically, the EU Agency chooses not to go on the road of requiring an empty middle seat.

On arrival, you are not out of the woods yet. Thermal screening may be applied at the arrival airport and airlines will be required to supply details to public health authorities of passenger movements to facilitate contact tracing.

EASA is also calling on Governments to simplify border control processes, hopefully meaning that more airports around the continent take this opportunity to install facial recognition.

Once clear, there is one last request: get out of the airport as soon as possible. After such a process to get to your destination, it is highly unlikely that this will be such a hard thing to resist.

Read more via EASA


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