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F.O.T: The Future of Travel – Part #1 – Masks and Social distancing

F.O.T: The Future of Travel – Part #1 – Masks and Social distancing
Series: Future of Travel


I’ve been reading various articles about the future of travel post-COVID-19 and thinking hard about it with the intention of writing a long and comprehensive post. But then, I realised that with constant changes, it is impossible to write something ‘comprehensive’. So, I have decided to start a series on the Future of Travel and deal with one aspect at a time. I’m even committing myself to some predictions – always a dangerous course of action.

This is the first in that series.

F.O.T. Prediction

#1 Face masks – preferably N95 will soon be part of a standard Amenity Kit.

Masks and social distancing

It looks like the mantra of ‘Passport, ticket, credit card, keys’ for travellers will soon include ‘face mask’ as well.

At least two airlines, Lufthansa and JetBlue in the USA have announced that they will mandate the wearing of masks by passengers when travelling.

AirAsia and Philippine Airlines even released designs for a kind of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) uniform which includes a mask and goggles, not to mention in AirAsia’s case a garish orange ‘onesie’.

a large airplane on a tarmac


The airline is requesting that all passengers wear a mask (mouth-nose cover) through the whole process of flying. So that’s from entering the airport to exiting at your destination. Flight attendants will also be wearing masks. Passengers will be asked to bring their own reusable fabric mask, but even a scarf will qualify. This policy will come into play between 4 May and 31 August.

‘Despite numerous adjustments to service procedures, it is not always possible to maintain the required distance on a flight. Therefore, this measure serves as additional protection for all passengers. All flight attendants on Lufthansa Group flights in direct contact with customers will also wear a corresponding mask.’

Lufthansa Media Release, 29 April 2020

Previously, Lufthansa and its subsidiary EuroWings was blocking the middle seat in all economy and premium economy cabins on flights out of Germany as a way of demonstrating social distancing. This policy was conceived in consultation with the countries Federal Minister of Transport. The policy will be dropped once the mask protocol is in place, although given the low demand, Lufthansa will still distribute passengers around the cabin

rows of seats in an airplane


Masks/face coverings will be required from 4 May on all JetBlue flights. Passengers are asked to wear them from checkin through to ‘deplaning’.

“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself it’s about protecting those around you.”

Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue

JetBlue doesn’t have a ‘middle seat’ policy but instead claims to limit seating on most flights, so there is additional space. They claim to review seating on each flight ‘to provide additional space between individuals who are not travelling together.’ It also blocks off rows around crewmember jump seats.

a group of people wearing red suits and face masks

Air Asia & Philippine Airlines

Both these airlines have introduced branded PPE uniforms for their flight attendants. Both have been designed by Filipino designers: Puey Quiñones based in Los Angeles for AirAsia and Edwin Tan for Philippines Airlines.

AirAsia is requiring its guests to wear masks before boarding, during the flight and at the baggage claim. Those not complying will be denied boarding. Crew will be subject to pre-flight temperature checks. It is not clear whether customers will be subject to temperature screening.

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

These are just a sample of new policies that airlines are imposing on passengers. If COVID-19 remains a recurring threat, as many scientist predict, then maybe masks will be the new normal.

Mandated masks for passengers and cabin crew is a much easier ask than social distancing on planes, which would decrease the passenger count on flights by at least a third, having direct and dire effects on airlines bottom lines, and affect the whole economics of flying. A mask will cost the airlines dollars if not cents per person to implement, and even less if mandated for passengers to supply.

It looks like ‘mask’ will be added to the ‘Passport, ticket, credit card, keys’ checklist of travel in 2020. Just like screening of all passengers and baggage was added post 9/11.

Do I get a prize fo the first airline collaboration with Cambridge Masks? Oh! They have already teamed with BA!

a face mask and a book
Other Posts in the Series
F.O.T: THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL – PART #4 & #5 – Say goodbye to the A380 and B747’s >>F.O.T: the Future Of Travel – PART #2 – Contactless payments post Pandemic >>

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