How Will Flying In The US Change After Coronavirus?

Since the coronavirus started to take its toll on US airlines in March, so much of the aviation world has changed. Many have compared the impact of coronavirus on global aviation to be similar in impact to 9/11. In a sense, it is true that this pandemic will lead to major changes in the US and around the world.

American and Delta Planes at LAX
Flying in the US will never be the same. Photo: Getty Images

A focus on health

After 9/11, airlines took a major step towards improving security on planes in conjunction with governmental regulations. After this pandemic, airlines will likely work with health officials on instituting new policies. This could include moves by Frontier Airlines adding health statements for customers to confirm prior to travel. Or, perhaps, airlines will embrace technology and try implementing health screening using kiosks.

Passengers may be subject to additional health screenings. Photo: Getty Images

Cutting more inflight services

Passengers and airlines are starting to take a look at interactions where disease transmission is possible. That is particularly true for inflight services. Serving multi-course meals in dishware, providing open-cup drinks, and providing hot towels are all separate interactions requiring passengers and crew to interact with each other.

French Toast
Meal service is one place where there are a large number of touchpoints. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

While airlines will likely continue to use glassware and dishware in premium cabins simply to reduce waste from single-use materials and maintain a certain standard in the cabin, service on the whole may decrease. Airlines will likely consolidate services up front to eliminate certain courses. Already, Delta Air Lines has modified dining service in Delta One and economy class to streamline service.

How Will Flying In The US Change After Coronavirus?
In Delta One, the airline has already cut appetizers in favor of soup, bread, and salad. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

International long-haul services will likely still retain more substantial meal services. However, on domestic flights, airlines will likely continue to offer meal boxes or snacks in lieu of full, hot meal service. Pre-departure beverages across the board will also likely be conducted either in single-use cups or else be restricted to a small offering of bottled water.

As for amenities, this crisis might be the end of blankets and pillows in most cabin classes.

Ultimately, for airlines, cutting these services in the interest of health also helps reduce their costs as they seek to get beyond this financial impact.

Social distancing

While the middle seat may “go away” for a few months, airlines will continue to sell as many seats as possible after the pandemic. However, it would not be surprising to see more airlines offer empty seat options for passengers available for purchase.

Delta 757 interior
Airlines may seek to introduce empty seat options to give passengers the option to practice social distancing if they choose to do so. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying

On the ground, airlines could seek to implement social distancing through reducing the number of people boarding at the same time and encouraging passengers to keep their distance using floor markers. This is something that costs airlines very little. In addition, a number of passengers may also likely choose to do this themselves.

More arrogance?

US airlines have had a sense of arrogance in the last few years. This has ranged from waging war against the big three Middle Eastern carriers to putting pressure on regulatory agencies to promote its own interests. If the big three US airlines survive this crisis, it will be in no small part due to support from the government.

Ed Bastian
Delta CEO Ed Bastian has been a vocal critic of ME3 expansion in the US. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Ignoring the fact the carriers received government assistance, CEOs will likely be emboldened by the fact that their airline survived while others around the world have folded. Which, in the end, may lead to a little more arrogance showing up publicly.

How do you think coronavirus will impact flying in the United States? Let us know in the comments!