European and American carriers are looking into alternative ways of flying passengers, including social distancing measures that would significantly raise the prices of tickets.
Rabat – The cost of a plane ticket could rise significantly after many countries lift coronavirus lockdown measures. Experts are predicting that once non-essential air travel resumes to at least half of its capacity prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, airline companies will have to alter the prices of tickets to adhere to social distancing measures.
Strict social distancing guidelines will likely prompt changes in seating arrangements. Companies will no longer be able to seat passengers closely together, and selling tickets for only a limited proportion of seats could result in significant revenue losses. Once non-essential travel is allowed, ticket prices will likely surge due to half-empty plane cabins.
Carriers will also have to be much more rigorous with health and hygiene, a practice that would require additional spending. Staff will have to get thoroughly clean tray tables and lavatories, which were usually not disinfected on turn-around flights, to prevent the spread of disease. This would require additional resources, and would reduce the number of flights that carriers can operate.
A changing landscape for global aviation
Post COVID-19 flying might resemble the disruptive flight aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Passengers may be subject to temperature checks, a measure already implemented at some international airports.
Authorities may also require health certificates, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The Austrian government now requires third-country nationals to present a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country via air, and many other EU nations will likely follow suit.
Dirk-Maarten Molenaar, head of BCG’s practice in Europe and the MENA insisted that to be successful, the change will need to be “quick and secure. Something that is a relatively minor burden.”
In an online press conference, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, stressed to reporters that measures must “restart [the] industry in a way that is economically manageable.” De Juniac added that IATA is working with governments and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization to create post-coronavirus air safety rules.
Airlines are one of the hardest-hit businesses amid the pandemic, with many forced to ground entire fleets. Europe’s low-cost carriers, such as Ryanair and EasyJet, are under immense pressure. Other budget airlines have already collapsed. Lufthansa shut down its low-cost carrier, Germanwings, in April, fearing further revenue losses.
Aviation analyst Andrew Charlton predicts that many nations will witness a resurgence of an airline business model similar to the one in the US, where “the top four companies control nearly 80% of the market.” Less competition could also cause spikes in flight pricing.
Analysts expect inflated prices to last for months before companies are able to retain profit. It is unclear how this will resonate with consumers, as the demand for air travel has plummeted globally.
Countries across the world have imposed travel restrictions as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. While commercial flights have largely been halted, much media focus has shifted to emergency repatriation flights and the delivery of critical supplies within and between countries.