As the air transport sector wrestles to survive from the battle with the pandemic disaster, I cannot help thinking about ‘normality’ in the future. I do not want to generalise but in the current climate, it is fair to say that everyone wishes for a speedy return to normal life. Indeed, during the transition we will come across many hurdles and challenges. No one knows though what the new setting will be like after the pandemic. However, looking at this from an airport operator’s perspective, we should be prepared for tomorrow. This rationality makes me curious to know how the ‘passenger’ profile will transform in the new order. Once we establish the new traveller outline will be like then we can adapt services accordingly.
Would people’s expectations be different after the return to business as usual? Would behaviours change? The chances for anyone to know these answers are very low. In my opinion, it is impossible to predict accurately any variations that we may see in the coming months or years. Reactions will fluctuate as society is coming out from deep sock and prolonged stress.
Passengers with extra demands and higher expectations
Broadly speaking, my view is in line with this of other commentators. I believe that after the situation has stabilized, passengers will not be the same and would behave differently. I suspect people will have extra demands and higher expectations with a lower tolerance level on matters related to hygiene and sanitation for instance. Consequently, in the new setup additional pressures will force airlines, services providers, travel companies and industry agencies to either adjust or fine-tune their operations.
Undoubtedly, people are asking a myriad of questions that for now airport operators cannot answer with any certainty. How will airports manage crowding and passenger congregation in the future? How adequate will be physical distancing within terminals? Are there other modes of travel that offer better safety measures? For me, these questions will act as influencers to reformat passenger profile in the next few years. Assuming that the passenger profile will change, I am probing to discover how airports will react to this new ‘normality’. Will they be adequately prepared? Will airports revamp public spaces to accommodate travellers?
On my article titled Recovery of the Sleeping Beauties (December 2020, www.airportbureau.com), I offered a list of suggestions on what I believe must be done for airport terminals to reopen successfully after the crisis. I also mentioned that to reinstate passenger confidence to a reasonable point would be the most difficult task for all aviation industry stakeholders.
Airports must be prepared for post pandemic situation
Understandably, it is not possible to apply a common management plan for each airport around the world. The size of operation, resources, market segment and other commercial entities they will all play a part in the recovery of airports. Even so, it is very important for airport operators – jointly with other commercial partners and stakeholders – to address NOW how to manage passenger expectations in the post Covid-19 situation. The quality of safety, comfort, space management, cleanliness, transfers could determine people’s decision to return to flying or not. Unless airports get these aspects correct, passengers may stay away for very long. Airports must be ready to deal with the situation effectively when the moment comes. Better to be proactive and control the situation than having to deal with urgencies later!