What changes to expect when we start traveling again after Coronavirus – Safe Travels #11

What changes to expect when we start traveling again after Coronavirus – Safe Travels #11

Coronavirus has caused travel to come to a screeching halt throughout the world. Flights are empty, cruise ships are waiting in port, and everyone’s waiting to find out when they can start planning trips again.

But, much like after 9/11, there will be changes to how we travel. From flights to cruises, it’s safe to expect several changes in procedures, regulations, and traveler habits.

Today’s show discusses several of the most likely changes coming in the wake of Coronavirus.

Selected Links From This Episode

Show Notes & Timestamps

  • Changes to air travel 00:01:22
  • Trying to make airplane travel more “touchless” 00:03:33
  • Using technology solutions 00:03:56
  • Self-serve health check kiosks 00:06:07
  • Cruise industry changes 00:06:34
  • Summary 00:07:38



Hi, it’s Damian here. This is the Safe Travels podcast, the show that tries to help you get rid of those travel worries so you can sit back and relax and enjoy your trip.

Today we’re talking about the changes to expect when we start traveling again after coronavirus.

How is travel going to be different? What are the changes that are coming down the line?

It’s been awhile since anybody’s really traveled and we really have no idea when we will get back to it.

It’s a little bit like after 9/11, there is a bit of a waiting period and nobody really knew when they could travel again. That was a time when the entire travel industry changed overnight in the US, and largely abroad as well.

And, the list of changes that came from that is pretty long. For instance, the TSA screenings got much more thorough. You used to be able to greet people at the gate…you’d go through security and actually stand at the gate and wait for them to get off the plane. That went away.

We all get to take our shoes off now after the shoe bomber incident.

That’s when liquids became an issue…the liquid restriction. In fact, I’ve always carried a pocket knife and I remember taking it through security a long time ago and they would just look at it and hand it back to you after the metal detector.

So all of that’s changed. All those things have come along since 9/11.

Everyone’s waiting to travel right now, but we’re not really sure when we can do that. The last show that we did talked about how we will know that we can start traveling again.

And we’re wondering what the new changes will be. I was just reading a piece by Brian Kelly from thepointsguy.com, and he had a good article which got me thinking.

So today we’ll cover some of the good points that he made in that article and a few of our own as well.

First of all, there will be changes to air travel. That’s one of those things that puts a lot of people in close spaces together…we’re moving around…it’s obviously the main way that this virus has been spread from country to country. Packing a lot of people into small places like sardines is not really in line with social distancing and there will likely be changes to how we deal with that.

One of those changes might be some sort of medical test…it could be very minor like a temperature check, but don’t be surprised to see some sort of standardized checks or a very simple test as part of the flying process.

What would that look like?

  • It could be part of the check in process at the airport.
  • It could be part of the security process.
  • It could be prior to boarding the plane.
  • It might be with international flights only.
  • Maybe it’s just to/from “hotspots”…red zones, green zones where, you know, people might be infected or where they’re trying to really control it strictly.

In China, for example, we are seeing planes land at intermediary airports for health checks before flying on to its biggest cities. So they’ve really created bottlenecks where everybody needs to go in and out and have some sort of health check.

After 9/11 we created all sorts of new machines to seek out weapons and liquids to scan people as they got under planes. And we’ll need to do something similar to protect ourselves against viruses.

As Brian points out in his article, wiping down seats with disinfectant will become something really common instead of just something that the over-the-top germaphobes do.

You’ll see a lot more face masks. In fact, you might even see them as part of some sort of regular in-flight amenity. Perhaps you’ll have some sort of germ kit that has a mask, some sanitizer, wipes for your tray, gloves, things like that.

And we’ll also need to change how we sit on planes. In that same article from thepointsguy.com, Brian’s talking about anticipating airlines blocking off middle seats until they absolutely need to sell them…and then offering the ability to purchase them as a buffer, as a reasonable way to upsell to window seats or aisle. Basically leave that middle spot open until they really, really need it, which I think is an interesting idea.

We’ll probably see a few changes at the gate area too…like systems so passengers don’t need to crowd around the gate waiting to get on the plane.

It’d be nice to see more touchless features on the plane. For example, the whole bathroom process, some sort of touchless door handle, the sink operation, getting a towel, flushing the toilet. It’s amazing a lot of that stuff is not touchless by now.

I was trying to think of all the different things that we touch on an airplane, and really the only mandatory one that I can think of is the seatbelt. I’m not quite sure how to fix that, but of all of the other things, everything else is somewhat optional. You don’t need to touch your tray. You don’t need to touch the arm rests. You can really sit there and just keep your hands to yourself except for that seatbelt. You’ll probably see the magazines and other items in the seat pocket in front of you go away so that we’re not sharing things that way.

An area that we can do really well with is technology. As Brian points out in the article, we need to wage war against long lines in the whole travel process. Whether it’s at the check-in or security or immigration, having hundreds of people or even thousands of people in small spaces is not acceptable.

Technology can help with a lot of things so that we don’t have to touch stuff anymore.

For example, the check-in kiosk. How about some sort of voice activated system so that we don’t have to touch that screen or even use your own cell phone to limit screen cross contamination.

We still hand over our identification to TSA and check. Why not some sort of scanning tools so that they don’t need to touch that?

The TSA bins that go around and around, we could see some sort of machine that cycles them through with instant sanitizing…maybe it’s UV light, maybe it’s some sort of spray.

We touch our tickets, even though we’ve largely done away with paper tickets so we’re not handling those as much anymore. A lot of people have switched to their phone, but think about the process for that.

You take something that you put against your face fairly often, place it against a little screen at the check in process, and so does everybody else behind you. Then we all put that phone back against our face again. So yes, you might use headphones and things like that, but in general, you’re taking something that belongs on or around your face and wiping it against a surface that everybody else does as well.

The seatbelts, something else that we’d touched on, like I mentioned just a minute ago, maybe the gloves in that safety pack, we can put them on, put it on then take them back off.

There must be some sort of way to make the overhead bin touchless Again, bathrooms, we need more touchless devices in there.

And then maybe even baggage claim. Run all the bags through some sort of sanitizing machine, UV light.

So what else as far as technology?

Well, we might have some sort of wellness card to show how well we are.

Privacy gets people freaked out here, but the overall results should be good with this.

It’s basically some sort of system to use technology to show that you have a temperature in a normal range…anything else that indicates that you’re a healthy person, that you should be traveling. All of these things could be entering the system.

For example, right now you need to have your temperature taken in order to eat at a restaurant in Hong Kong, but at the same time, you can fly into the United States from anywhere and travel throughout the country without any sort of screening.

These are things that we’re not very used to. We see pictures from other countries where they have some sort of mandatory screening taking place, but this is all new for us and I think there’s ways to do it that can become just part of our routine.

As Brian points out in the article, there are some signs that this is becoming the new reality. There’s a carrier in the Middle East that is now testing a self service kiosk that can monitor temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate of passengers checking in or passing through immigration. So it’s automated… It’s a machine that does this.

And just as passengers to some parts of the globe right now need proof of yellow fever vaccines, you might need to carry some sort of card that shows that you are immunized to other diseases.

How about the cruise industry? What will change there?

I think you can expect cruise companies to have more advanced onboard medical facilities and onboard testing for all kinds of illnesses.

Improved sanitation on board and improved systems on board, like ventilation systems and sanitizing systems so they have some method of limiting an outbreak.

Back to some of the airline checks, I can certainly see cruises having checks or scans or testing to make sure that everybody going on board is coronavirus free.

And otherwise for cruise ships, it’s a lot of the same stuff with airlines.

Some sort of standardized testing, improved sanitation, improving the line systems, improving check-in systems. Basically just a stronger focus on individual hygiene.

And outside of airline travel and cruise travel, a few other changes. Hotels are going to have to work harder to show guests that rooms are really getting cleaned in between visits. They should be incorporating some sort of technology. Again, the UV light sanitizing is a good method. Or other products or other tests or scanning that can make sure that rooms are truly clean.

You’ll probably see a lot more people booking refundable hotel rooms and seeking out flexible flight options as the possibility of cancellations increases.

We’ll likely see travel insurance become more popular, especially the cancel for any reason product, which gives people the option to call off a trip at the last minute and get most of their money back.

So in summary, what changes can we expect as we start traveling again after coronavirus is over?

We should see lots of systems and technology being used to address really big touch points that we have in the travel process. Anything like long lines, waiting areas, check-in processes…there are smart ways to do that so that we don’t have as much contact.

We might be seeing some standard testing incorporated into travel, whether it’s a very simple thing like a touchless temperature scan. It might be a machine that does it. It could be a scanner that you just walked through that gets your temperature. There’s a lot of good technology out there, And finally we’ll be seeing people trying to protect their investment a bit more.

Booking cancelable hotel rooms, flexible flights, buying travel insurance to protect their investment.

I hope this has been helpful. Thank you for listening. Please share it if you can, and again, Safe Travels!

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My name is Damian, and I started this website in 2006 to help travelers understand travel insurance.

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