Air travel has been a major casualty of the coronavirus pandemic and even the airlines’ main trade body, the International Air Transport Association, states that anything like returning to normal will extend into 2023. Many an international airport had a look of a ghost city throughout April and May.
Long-haul travel remains the hardest hit but there is some movement back to air flights. Across Western Europe, airlines increased capacity to 6.8 million passengers last week, up 47%, with Ryanair alone offering 763,938 seats, up from 218,484 over the previous seven days, Telegraph reported.
Boris Johnson‘s UK Government listed 74 overseas destinations permissible, however only 25 do not have restrictions on UK arrivals. However the policy is fraught with the possibility of a spike in COVID-19 cases. Greece, for example, is having to consider reintroducing lockdown after a major spike in COVID-19 after opening its borders to tourists. On Friday, 60 people were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, the highest daily number since April 21. More than 100 new cases reported in the last 10 days have been incoming tourists.
The world’s busiest airport is providing a glimpse into how people might be able to go overseas on holiday.
“Whatever the new normal … it’s going to be more and more around self-service,” Sean Donohue, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport CEO, told Reuters.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is working with American Airlines, which is based at the airport, to set up a self-check-in for luggage, and to enable its restrooms to be entirely touchless by the end of July with technology developed by Infax Inc. Each toilet facility will have hands-free sinks, soap, flushing toilets, and paper towel dispensers.
“One of the biggest complaints airports receive are restrooms,” Donohue said.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is trialling three technology options for luggage check-ins: Amadeus’ ICM, SITA, and Materna IPS.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport introduced biometric boarding — where your face is your boarding pass — for international flights last year and is taking advantage of the lull in international traffic to work with US Customs and Border Protection to use the VeriScan technology for arriving passengers.
Delta Air Lines opened the first US biometric terminal in Atlanta in 2018, and some airports in Europe and Asia also use facial recognition technology.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is also testing new technology around better sanitisation, beginning with ultraviolet technology that can kill germs before they circulate into the HVAC system. It has also deployed electrostatic foggers and hired a “hit team” of 150 people who are going through the terminals physically sanitizing high-touch areas.
“Technology is critical because it can be very efficient,” Donohue said, but customers “being able to visualize what’s happening is reassuring as well.”
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has invested millions of dollars above its cleaning and sanitation budget since the pandemic broke out. It simultaneously suspended about $100 million of capital programs and reduced its second-half operating costs by 20% as it addressed COVID-19’s steep hit to the industry, which only months ago was preparing for growth.
Nearly 114,000 customers went through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on July 11, an improvement from a 10,000 per day trough in April, but still just about half of last year’s volumes. Face coverings are required in all Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport facilities.
International Air Transport Association CEO and Director General, Alexandre de Juniac, knows there is still a lot of work to be done before people are willing to fly again.
“To protect aviation’s ability to be a catalyst for the economic recovery, we must not make that prognosis worse by making travel impracticable with quarantine measures,” he said. “We need a solution for safe travel that addresses two challenges. It must give passengers the confidence to travel safely and without undue hassle, and it must give governments confidence that they are protected from importing the virus.”