Undoubtedly, the unprecedented wave of the Covid-19 has waged war against all industries across the globe with travel and tourism taking a hard hit.
Covid-19 has caused passenger demand for air travel to collapse and grounded many aircrafts. The collapse in demand for air flight has inevitably harmed tourism as tourists can no longer travel and enjoy the cultural heritage of other countries.
ALSO READ: Coronavirus: 50 million jobs to be lost globally, says the World Travel and Tourism Council
Covid-19 and Air Travel Restrictions
The collapse in the demand for air travel has been driven mainly by public health safety policy. Governments across the world chose to protect the safety of the public by banning entry to non-citizens as the virus ravished many countries. Some countries like South Africa, India, and Ghana stopped issuing visitor visas. It can be recalled that on March 17, Ghana’s Embassy in the United States suspended the issuances of visas and passports. The suspension affected both mailed and in-person services. Other countries like the United States and Australia suspended visa-free travel reciprocity. These measures forced airlines to stop serving a once vibrant market and disrupted the plans of millions of travelers.
According to the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, “as of 20 April, 100% of all worldwide destinations have introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.
97 destinations (45%) have totally or partially closed their borders for tourists. 65 destinations (30%) have suspended totally or partially international flights. 39 destinations (18%) are implementing the closing of borders in a more differentiated manner by banning the entry for passengers from specific countries of origin”.
Regionally, Asia and the Pacific were the first regions to suffer the impact of COVID-19 which saw a 35% decrease in arrivals in the first quarter. The second-hardest hit was Europe with a 19% decline, followed by the Americas with a 15% decline, Africa with a 12% decline, and the Middle East with an 11% decline.
The question of whether air travel fares will increase or decrease remains to be seen. But it’s unlikely fares will spike at least not in the short term. This is because airlines are flying with more capacity than demanded and the relatively low cost of fuel.
However, price hikes are also likely as some airlines are on the brink of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy reduces the number of competitors in a market, which invariably drives up the price since the supply of service will be controlled in the hands of the few. In the case of the airline industry, should many airlines go into bankruptcy, the supply of airline service will be in the hands of a few and as such, the power to control prices.
The future of the Airline Industry
Digitization will shape the future of the airline industry, as it will be with other industries.
Touchless travel and digital health technology
Touchless travel is said to be the most immediate and perhaps most visible change in the airline industry. The use of biometrics will become more widespread as travel documents and touching surfaces through check-in pose a significant risk of infection for both travelers and staff.
Currently, touchless data-entry such as gesture control, touchless document scanning, and voice commands are already being tested. New health protocols and standards with the aid of digital technology offer hope of a return to normalcy in the air travel industry. For instance, Apple and Google are accelerating and finalizing coronavirus contact tracing apps.
As governments ease restrictions; like the UK, beginning July 10 is allowing passengers from over 50 countries to enter England, effective testing and tracking must be paramount. This is because there are reports of cases where people have received “false negatives.”
A false negative is said to either occur if a person is tested too early or too late. Also, a false negative occurs when nasal swabs used to collect samples of the virus aren’t inserted deep enough into the nose or throat to adequately collect virus samples. That being said, travel authorities should give no room for lax.