As we patiently wait (and wait) for borders to open both domestically and internationally, we’ve decided to take a closer look at how travelling in the new “COVID normal” will look.
After analysing the results from our post COVID survey, we hope you find this information helpful and eases some of your concerns in preparing for your future adventures.
So sit back and grab a cuppa, this is a long one!
Naturally air travel is a hot topic so let’s start with the changes you will see when travelling by air.
All airlines and airports have implemented additional hygiene measures and adapted services and procedures from initial check-in to the baggage claim at your destination.
At the airport you will notice hand sanitiser units located at check-in, along concourses, in bathrooms and food courts. Some airports like Melbourne Airport have also installed disinfectant wipes in domestic and international departures.
Crowds are obviously the biggest challenge at airports with (normally) thousands of travellers passing through at any one time. Visual aids are used on the ground in busy areas such as security, check-in and customs. At the departure gates you will also see seating spaced out to try support and encourage physical distancing.
Airlines either have already or are currently in the process of introducing online or mobile check-in and pre-departure COVID health questionnaires. Travelling domestically you can nearly always use the self service bag drop which eliminates the need for contact with check-in staff and also reduces crowds at the check in kiosks and queues.
Another initiative currently being trialed by United Airlines and Cathay Pacific on two of their busy routes between London and Newark and also Hong Kong and Singapore is a new app called CommonPass. If proven successful, this new app will allow travellers to upload their COVID test results and complete a questionnaire prior to travel. If all the requirements of the destinations and transit points are met they will receive a QR code to scan at the airport to again reduce the amount of time spent queuing and speaking with staff at check in and border control. The trial will be observed by the US Centre for Disease Control and, if successful, may be rolled out to other major airlines to hopefully have us all back travelling safely again soon!
Airports are also working closely with their retailers and contractors to ensure hygiene measures are consistent with government advice.
Airline lounges are mostly in operation but with strict COVID safe regulations in place.
When it comes to boarding you will find some airlines offer the option to self scan your boarding pass. Boarding may take a bit longer than usual as airlines will tend to board from the back and some airlines may still space out passengers where possible on flights. (As you read on you will see why this is not actually mandatory)
You may be required to wear a mask through the airport (usually children under 12 are exempt), on board and on arrival. You will be able to remove it to eat and drink of course. Airlines are also providing passengers with masks, wipes & hand gel upon boarding although we still recommend you take you own; it never hurts to be prepared! Your flight crew will also be wearing masks and additional personal protective equipment.
Some meal services have been simplified to minimise contact between crew and passengers and new COVID guidelines have been implemented.
Although being on an aeroplane means you will be in close contact with other people, the air filtration systems on aircraft are actually quite remarkable. The air onboard most modern aircraft circulates vertically and passes through highly effective filter systems ensuring a complete air exchange within a few minutes. Thus the excellent air quality, in combination with wearing a face-nose cover, offers such a high level of protection that it is actually not essential to maintain minimum distances to passengers in neighbouring seats.
Cabins and high contact points are thoroughly cleaned before and after each flight. Surfaces in aircraft (e.g. armrests, seat belts, seat belt fastenings/buckles, tables, and toilet door handles) are being thoroughly cleaned using certified cleaning products.
Below is some infographics from IATA (International Air Transport Association) that I found very interesting and comforting to read
Depending on where you are travelling to or via you may be required to produce a negative COVID-19 PCR Test. The test usually has to have been done within 96-72 hours of travel. All countries and airlines are different so it is important to be aware of the requirements specific to your trip. Some countries are even offering rapid testing on arrival (usually at your expense). You can expect your temperature to be taken on arrival wherever you may be going and you may also have your temperature checked prior to boarding or even earlier in the check in process.
The Australian Govenrnment have also just announded the roll out, testing of a new Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) will be completed by Australia-bound travellers on their mobile device or computer.
Currently, passenger contact and declaration information is collected on paper cards ( you know those yellow ones you get on the plane when you are coming home from overseas) which are then scanned and processed manually.
In a COVID world, this information is an invaluable source for contact tracing and the manual process could slow down efforts to control the virus.
The DPD will facilitate information being collected and shared more efficiently while still using the same authority for collection. The DPD will also allow certified COVID vaccination certificates to be digitally uploaded and connected if and when they become available
When it comes to ground transport you will find vehicles (buses/cars/taxis) will be disinfected after every trip and face masks will be expected to be worn.
Car rental companies are responding to traveller needs by introducing the highest standards of cleanliness and most have implemented additional cleaning measures with many sealing vehicles after sanitation. This gives customers peace of mind, as an unbroken seal indicates they are the first person in the vehicle since sanitisation.
Contactless collections are becoming even more important and there is an effort to have all paperwork/insurance/selling finalised before the customer arrives. Car rental suppliers are promoting all contactless pick-up/drop-off and fast-lane style options to minimise time spent in rental locations. Rental companies will need to request additional customer information at the time of booking to assist in these new measures.
The use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for staff and socially distanced waiting areas will also be widely carried out.
Hotels have also had to introduce some new ways of life during COVID. Unfortunately I dare say our beloved buffet breakfast may not look the same for quite some time!
Most hotels have implemented additional cleaning measures, with many adding seals to room doors to indicate no one has entered since being thoroughly cleaned. They are also disinfecting frequently used public areas more often, adding multiple hand sanitising stations throughout their properties and decluttering items like books or newspapers to reduce the potential for transmission.
Check-in lines will be distanced as will high traffic areas within the hotel. Most hotels may use protective screens at check-in and staff may also be in additional protective wear including masks. Hotels are working to improve mobile check-in and digital room keys. New initiatives such as these can take some time to implement but I can see these changes remaining even after COVID.
Hotels are reviewing their F&B (Food & Beverage) offerings including mini-bars, onsite catering, room service and event catering. They are adapting processes for ordering, preparing, delivering, consuming and paying for services.
Over 3,200 of Marriott’s Hotels & Resorts currently offer the below technology .
(Naturally, you would book with us though and then you can use the app).
Touring will also see similar measures to air, car & hotel providers. Capacity may be reduced and smaller groups may be the new normal for a while.
Cruising is of course one of the main areas people have the most questions about, especially considering the unfortunate events earlier this year. Cruise ships are actually one of the only travel providers that have been using hand sanitising stations for years and years. The high density of passengers on cruises and the amount of high contact areas makes hygiene a full time job on board. I was on a two night cruise just before COVID became a pandemic and was so impressed by the constant cleaning and sanitising of the whole ship, and I mean constant!
Since COVID, cruise lines worldwide have been working hard to implement even more protocols to ensure they remain at the forefront of health and safety for both their guests and crew. One of the major new protocols for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) ocean members is that they have agreed to conduct 100% testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity of more than 250 people and a negative test result will be required for any embarkation. CLIA members include most of the biggest cruise lines in the world, some of which we know you will be familiar with such as Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Ponant, etc.
As cruising in Australian waters is yet to restart we will definitely be keeping a close eye on these new procedures and exactly how they plan to implement them, but it is encouraging to know that the biggest and most well respected cruise lines are taking such great lengths to keep guests, crew and even the local communities they visit and support safe.
We must remember that hundreds of ships with thousands and thousands of passengers have cruised with absolutely no problem and no sickness. Unfortunately when there is that occasional outbreak of something like gastro (or obviously COVID) it makes the headlines and leaves a mark across the whole industry. I have always felt safe and clean on cruise ships but that is my personal experience. But I still wouldn’t want to be quarantined on a ship…. (tip – always book a balcony cabin!)
When it comes to the hesitations of booking your next trip with the fear of lockdowns, quarantine and the loss of money from bookings, we can look at the measures currently in place.
Never before in my travel life have I seen airlines have such flexibility; yes, it’s still not as simple as say a hotel cancellation/change policy, but just about every airline has some sort of “Book with Confidence” plan where if you need to change your plans due to any COVID related issues you can do so with little or no penalty.
This also goes for hotels, touring, car hire and cruises. Some cruising companies are allowing cancellations up until 48 hours prior to sailing – this is normally unheard of!
Touring is usually one of the products that have quite strict cancellation periods due to the multitude of elements that go into creating a fully inclusive tour. But even now you can defer your tour up to 30 days prior to departure, or even 21 days prior with companies like Intrepid. Every supplier is different but your Advisor can take you through the finer details if you are keen to get booking and have something to look forward to.
Travel Insurance proves to be our next hurdle as currently no one is covering for medical claims arising from COVID (if you get COVID while travelling). We do believe that changes to this may be in the pipe works and we hope to share details on this as soon as we know more
Fo the near future we will find ourselves exploring our own amazing continent and hopefully visit our friends across The Ditch in the not to distant future. We do fear that Australia may just “book out” as there really is not enough supply for the demand we predict is coming but we will have to wait and see. We do strongly suggest booking destinations such as Broome, The Kimberley and the N.T for the high season (June/July/August) in 2021 as soon as you can as these destinations always sell out, even in “normal” times.
Now more than ever you need a professional Travel Advisor on your side. You need trusted advice and guidance to ensure you have a safe and memorable trip.
Advisors can help in choosing trusted and financially stable suppliers (of course we cannot guarantee this) as unstable providers going into administration or bankruptcy is a real issue. We can advise the best way to cover yourself financially if this were to happen.
We thank you for your continued support and look out for the survey results post here.
Below are some links you may like to take a look at regarding how various travel providers are dealing with COVID and the protocols they have in place going forward.
Please note that the information provided can change or be updated at anytime. Every Country and every Airline or Airport are different. Its a big ever changing COVID World. We will try our best to keep you as informed as possible
Now you have fried your brain from the above, sit back and enjoy this short video from our friends at Intrepid Travel; I dare you not to get emotional watching it! Oh, how we miss travelling!