MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In normal times, social distancing is not what most airports or commercial passenger jets are all about.
In normal times, passengers can expect long lines to the ticket counter and for security, only to enter packed planes with cramped seating.
Airline expert, Seth Kaplan says, “Going forward with social distancing, airports are crowded when travel is high and airports are not made for this new world. We are all becoming germaphobic and we will see how this plays out.”
Kaplan is also an aviation journalist and co-host of the podcast airline confidential.
“As things change now, how crowded into small planes are people willing to be? That is something that could change long term plans. Terminals on the drawing board for years, starting to build are they still suitable for a modern environment?”
How will TSA check lines be configured to accommodate social distancing? 6 weeks ago you could never wear a mask going through security. Now, unless asked, it’s not a problem.
As far as the airlines there will be multiple issues, including:
“If they are going to have to block middle seats, and no one is flying anyway that would cost money, in the end, same money from fewer passengers.”
This would translate high fares to defray the cost of operating a plane with reduced passenger capacity.
In the short term, fares will be lower to lure passengers back to flying.
However, Kaplan explains, “It would not be a surprise to see people more comfortable getting in their car before they want to get back on an airplane.”
As far as airport design, airplane reconfiguration, terminal traffic flow, airline schedules and security checks, Kaplan says, “No one knows what the new world is going to look like. The only thing we know is it will be different. Can’t have something this big happen without a change.”
As far as face masks, more and more airlines are requiring their travelers and staff to wear them.
American Airlines will require passengers to wear masks starting May 11th. United Airlines will make masks available to passengers and is encouraging passengers to wear them, but is not making it a requirement. JetBlue Airlines and Frontier Airlines are requiring travelers to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at airline ticket counters, gate areas and onboard.