How A COVID-19 Vaccine Will Change The Aviation Industry

We all know how much the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the aviation industry. Many of the travel and personal restrictions we are becoming used to could continue until a successful vaccine has been developed. But how close are we to a vaccine, and what effect could it have on international travel?

A340 Plane Silhouette
How will air travel look when we have a COVID-19 vaccine? Photo: Getty Images

When will we get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged at the start of 2020, nearly 200 vaccines have been developed. Human trials have been conducted with at least 15 of them. However, creating a new vaccine is a long and laborious process than cannot be rushed. The most optimistic forecast is that a vaccine could be ready by the end of this year, while others say we could still be a year away from general distribution.

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As reported by The Telegraph today, experts say that the vaccines being developed in Germany and at Oxford University are the most likely to be available this year. China, Russia, and the US are also in advanced testing stages.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Officer for England, said at a press conference this week that good progress has been made, and several vaccines are in the late stages of clinical trials. A number of them will be available to the UK, possibly this year, but we are more likely to have access to them early next year.

Getty passenger mask
A COVID-19 vaccine could be available this year. Photo: Getty Images

On a pessimistic note, the Times of India quotes Dr Balram Bhargava as saying that no vaccine for respiratory diseases is 100% efficient. He said,

“WHO has said a vaccine with 50% efficacy can be accepted. We are aiming for 100%, but the vaccine’s efficacy would be anywhere between 50-100.”

One thing is clear. When a successful vaccine becomes available, it will need to be delivered to all parts of the world quickly and efficiently. Simple Flying highlighted the role that air cargo carriers will need to play in the distribution process and that they should be prepared for the surge in capacity.

Face masks Argentina passengers
Air travelers may have to get used to longer queues at airports. Photo: Getty Images

What will change for air travelers?

Even when a vaccine is available, and the enormous task of distributing it worldwide is underway, some of the changes we’ve seen in air travel will not just go away. The effects of coronavirus will be with us for years to come. Countries that have the virus under control will still be wary about infections coming from outside their borders.

Passengers may continue to see longer queues at security checkpoints and immigration controls. Once the vaccine is ready, you will need a certificate of immunity because you’ve either been vaccinated or you’ve recovered from the virus (even though it’s uncertain yet how long immunity might last). To speed up the process, we could see the introduction of wristbands with barcodes or some similar system. Pre-travel testing is likely to become the norm.

Even if it is no longer mandatory to wear masks in airports and on aircraft, many travelers may choose to carry a mask. Similarly, your pre-travel packing list is likely to include hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes.

Of course, it is merely speculation as to what post-COVID air travel will look like. While passenger numbers may eventually recover to their pre-pandemic levels, the way we fly might have changed for the long term.

How do you think things will change for the aviation industry in the long term? Let us know in the comments.