Flights may be grounded around the world right now as individual countries pursue varying levels of lockdown, however, there is some hope ahead as airports and airlines begin to put forward ideas for resuming travel while ensuring passengers stay safe. Experts have suggested precautions travellers can take themselves, as well as the airlines.
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Having been trapped in lockdown for nine weeks now, many Britons are eager to jet off as soon as possible, according to data from Skyscanner.
The travel experts found that more than a quarter of the nation remain confident in air travel, saying they will travel “more than ever”.
Meanwhile, operators such as Wizz Air have already resumed some flights, and Irish-carrier Ryanair says it plans to resume 40 percent of operations by July.
However, future fliers should consider packing some vital items in their luggage before they board.
Myles Quee, Travel Expert at Send My Bag spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to shed some light on how travellers can take health and hygiene into their own hands.
“Handwashing is the most effective method for stopping the spread of the disease. In airports there are potential hazards of passing the infection by handling or touching surfaces that have come into contact with someone carrying the virus – it can live on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours,” he warned.
However, when seated on a long flight, hand washing may not be as easy as it is at home.
Luckily, Myles has a solution.
“Passengers need to be extra vigilant and well-armed with hand sanitiser to ensure their hands are washed regularly and thoroughly.
“Provided the bottle is below 100ml, it can also be boarded on the plane in your hand luggage.”
Though large bottles of hand sanitiser can be packed in hold luggage, which may be helpful for travellers jetting off on long-haul holidays, they are not allowed through security.
“Airlines have strict rules on the amount of liquids allowed in hand luggage. Where possible you should carry liquids in your checked-in luggage,” adds Myles.
“You can carry smaller bottles of liquid up to 100ml provided the containers can collectively be stored in a single, transparent, sealed plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm by 20cm.
“Only one such bag can be carried on board per person, and the bag must be shown to airport security.
“Containers larger than 100ml are not permitted even if only partly full. The exception to these rules are essential medicine or baby food or milk.
“However, airport staff might need to investigate the liquid in the containers at the security point.”
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Some airlines may also have their own specific rules pertaining to hand luggage, as Myles points out: “Always check the airline’s luggage restrictions before leaving for the airport, and make sure hand luggage complies.”
Along with hand sanitiser, many airlines are now making face masks mandatory for both passengers and crew.
“Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, has already announced that they will be compulsory for the airline’s crew and passengers as it plans to restore up to 40 percent of its flight schedule from July,” continues Myles.
“Along with temperature checks on arrival and departure, face masks have been shown to be among the most effective measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in air travel.
“The virus is spread as droplets in the air, and the likelihood of transmission between an infected person to other passengers can be reduced with a face mask.
“However, they are not foolproof as they can be contaminated by other people’s coughs and sneezes, or when putting them on or removing them.
“Some have also speculated that they create a false sense of security, causing the person wearing it to become less alert to other possible transmission risks.”
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Alongside Ryanair, Wizz Air has also released a new safety video which instructs passengers to wear a face-covering at the airport and onboard.
Wizz Air has also revealed that it will be handing over disinfecting wipes to passengers as they board, giving them the opportunity to personally sanitise their seat area.
“Household cleaning wipes can also help to reduce the chance of transmission, but must be used in one direction as wiping them back and forth could just spread germs more widely,” warns Myles.
He suggests packing your own supply when travelling with airlines who may not offer them for free.
He adds: “Tissues will also be important for travellers to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. Once used the tissues should be quickly disposed of, so handkerchiefs are not recommended as an alternative.”
Most airlines currently flying are not offering their usual food service, although British Airways, for example, is offering pre-packaged food on its repatriation flights.
Despite the sealed snacks, Myles warns that customers should take some extra precautions.
“Food hygiene is also essential to containing the spread of the virus,” he says.
“Bringing your own straw means you won’t have to worry about coming into contact with a glass which you can’t reliably prove is completely clean.”
The future of air travel remains largely uncertain, though main transport hubs, including Heathrow Airport, are working hard to trial out efficient methods for ensuring the health and hygiene of travellers and staff.
Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 will be automatically screened for raised temperatures through thermal imaging cameras in a trial programme.
However, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye has added that a “globalised standard” is key to help revive the aviation industry.
He suggests that in order to stimulate air traffic, only “low risk” passengers should be allowed to fly.
“Unless we get people flying again we can’t get the UK economy moving again because the UK’s exports, and also because they come in through a supply chain, come on passenger planes through Heathrow,” Mr Holland-Kaye said on BBC News.
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