Speaking at an event in Dubai, the senior vice president for Emirates Group Security predicted that passengers should expect mandatory mask mandates for at least another two years. Globally, airlines and passengers are getting accustomed to the new normal for international travel. We’ve taken a look at what that could mean for passengers.
Mr Zack Zainal Abidin, senior vice president for Emirates Group Security, was speaking at the aviation security conference held in Dubai over the weekend. Quoted in The National News, Mr Abidin said,
“Covid is here to stay, and it won’t change until it’s regarded as endemic rather than a pandemic. It used to be the case that the flu was regarded as a dangerous disease until it became part and parcel of life. It’s going to take some time before COVID-19 reaches that stage. It’s going to be a while before the status of COVID-19 changes, and there’s going to be at least two more years of people wearing masks.”
Mr Abidin went on to highlight the complete switch the pandemic has presented to the security sector. Before the pandemic, more physical checks such as fingerprints were used to identify threats and check identity. The pandemic pushed the world to a near contactless state making these checks irrelevant. This change may not be reversed as quickly as masks mandates.
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The new normal
Aside from masks and socially distanced security checks, everyone in the aviation sector has to get used to new ways of doing things. For a short time, blocked middle seats seemed to be part of the new post-COVID world, but high demand and a need for recovery meant social distancing only goes as far as the airport gate. Once onboard, social distancing was quickly dropped.
For many, vaccine passports are now a part of the new normal in every aspect of life, from air travel to restaurants. Emirates partnered with the Dubai Health Authority back in February to implement digital vaccine certificates and testing verification. However, in some countries, low vaccine coverage means the new normal is just restricted travel.
How long can this go on for?
Many have claimed that as vaccine rates increase, COVID-19 will become similar to the flu; it’s annoying if you catch it, but there is no need for restrictions. But will things ever go back to normal? Opinion is divided. Several officials, including India’s Civil Aviation Minister, have said the new normal, including masks, will be here to stay. However, the CEO of airBaltic disagrees.
Many suggest the new measures will be lifted fairly soon as transmission of the virus drops. But some things look here to stay. For example, changes to airline refund policies could well continue, as could much of the contactless technology. Before the pandemic, cleanliness on aircraft, especially in the toilets, was much discussed. New contactless flushes, as well as contactless check-in and security measures, could well be a part of the future of aviation for much longer than two years.
What measures do you think will be kept? And which will we see fade away over the following years? Get in touch and the comments and let us know your thoughts.