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New U.S. Travel Association guidelines show us what flying during—and after—the virus will look like

What will post-corona travel look like?

Anna Rahmanan
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Anna Rahmanan
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Earlier this week, the U.S Travel Association—a national non-profit "representing and advocating for all components of the travel industry—"released new guidelines looking to direct travelers and industry leaders as we settle into a "new normal." 

The directions, which go beyond face mask requirements, were developed in accordance with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and White House guidelines. A variety of public health experts were also consulted. 

"We want political leaders and the public alike to see that our industry is setting a very high standard for reducing the risk of coronavirus in our businesses, and that the practices in place to achieve that standard are consistent through every phase of the travel experience," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in an official statement. "As travel reopens, travelers need the confidence that safety measures are in place from their departure to their return home."

The document—which can be found here—tackles the situation from different angles, painting an eerie but hopeful picture of what the travel experience might look like as restrictions and stay-at-home orders are slowly lifted around the country.

In primis, experts suggest creating transmission barriers: from requiring personnel to use protective equipment to installing physical barriers, encouraging physical distancing, limiting staff contact with costumers and, of course, reinforcing hand hygiene, strategies that fall within the category have already been vastly implemented across other industries as well. 

The document also mentions the importance of touch-less solutions. We might no longer have to check-in to our flight at a kiosk manned by a TSA agent but, instead, may be able to do so through our phones, for example. 

A portion of the plan also relies on the enhancement of sanitary procedures, a requirement that will likely affect the vast majority of businesses thinking of opening back up. Not only will hand sanitizer be widely available across travel hubs and, likely, inside planes, but staff members will be required to wash their hands more often as clean-up crews will likely sanitize areas more often than they previously have. 

Of course, a lot of focus is placed on the workers who will interact with more people than a solo traveler might come into contact with. Both crew and airport staff members will likely be required to undergo regular health screenings and, as is already the case, they'll be encouraged to isolate themselves as soon as they feel the possible onset of virus symptoms. "Should an employee or customer test positive, travel businesses should follow an appropriate checklist of actions in response," read the guidelines. "Travel businesses should follow guidance from leading public health authorities to define necessary actions in these instances."

Some airlines around the country have already adopted new practices: JetBlue was the first to require all crew members and passengers to wear face coverings on the plane and throughout airports, also reducing the number of seats available for purchase on each flight.

American Airlines, on the other hand, requires all passengers and flight attendants to wear face coverings on board only—for now. The airline has instructed gate agents to reassign seats in order to create more space between travelers at the last minute.

Delta also requires passengers and staff to wear masks—starting at the check-in lobby. Employees must also stay six feet away from each other and submit to temperature checks when reporting to work. Delta flights are also operating at reduced capacity, with middle seats blocked in economy, Comfort Plus and Premium Select cabins.

South West and United have assured passengers that they will provide them with face coverings if they forgot their masks at home. The former airlines will also give out sanitizing wipes upon request. Of course, each airline's crew will be required to use face masks as well. 

Although these guidelines are meant to ease the transition back to some sort of normality, questions about next steps are already being tackled by some. Are these temporary changes, or will the travel experience change forever? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Italian design company Aviointeriors is attempting to look ahead, releasing two proposals imagining what economy airplane seats might look like in the future. Not too bad, if you ask us.

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