“Business as usual.” The common phrase people use when everything resets and goes back to a normal routine. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety of employees as the number one priority, business travel will not be normal again, and our usual regimen will shift dramatically.
Here is a picture of what business travel (or any travel, for that matter!) will look like in the upcoming months and even years.
Perhaps the most visible change will be making every aspect of travel touchless, such as airport check-in and even terminal restaurants and bars. Even though protocols are in place to sanitize every corner of an airport, exchanging passports with airline staff and touching plastic menus can still spread the virus.
Sure, self-check-in kiosks are available now, but instead of touching a germy screen to get your boarding pass, expect new technology that will scan barcodes and other documents so you won’t have to make contact with the machine. Paper boarding passes might also become a thing of the past!
One other area of touchless travel is once you board the plane. Expect safety manuals, entertainment magazines, and other publications to be tossed. In addition, snacks and beverages may not be provided to reduce physical touch between passengers and the crew. According to an NBC News article, American Airlines will not provide alcohol or meals except on international routes. United will offer prepackaged and sealed drinks.
Less Capacity on Flights
Passenger volume on flights has reduced by 95 percent, forcing two airlines into bankruptcy (NBC News). While that is a grim statistic, it won’t remain that way forever. Business travel is expected to resume in the upcoming months as airlines and airports enforce more safety regulations.
Significant changes are happening to prevent the spread of the disease. Airlines, such as Delta and EasyJet, have temporarily eliminated the middle seat on planes so passengers can maintain a safe distance from one another (NBC News). On Frontier Airlines, passengers are required to pay an extra fee if they wish for the middle seat to be blocked. There have even been reports of adding plastic barriers in between each seat.
With fewer seats available on flights, that means ticket pricing could jump drastically and booking flights for travel could become increasingly more difficult.
Extended Wait Times
We all travel for business for a plethora of reasons: sales meetings, conferences, checking-in with other branches of a company. Eliminating business travel, altogether, will never happen – it is a crucial pillar of our economy’s stability.
But, even though business travel won’t be disappearing, it’s important to consider every element when planning a trip including extended wait times.
According to a Forbes article, there might be an extra step added to the security process once we arrive at the airport – “sanitagging”, where hard-cover suitcases pass through fogging or UV-disinfection. Along with the sanitation of suitcases, expect longer lines, enhanced thoroughness at security checkpoints, planes undergoing deep cleans in between flights, and possible temperature checks before boarding – all factors that can increase wait times. So, be sure to pack a snack and arrive early so you have plenty of time to go through each stage of the check-in process.
It’s true, business travel won’t be “as usual” and it won’t return to how it was, especially since a COVID-19 vaccine still has yet to be developed. It’s going to take some time for all of us to adjust to this “new normal”, and in the future, we'll experience that excitement of traveling for work once again. But, for now, we need to adjust our schedules and plan ahead to keep everyone safe and healthy.