It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future of travel will look like, but it seems as though this is the most likely way things will pan out post-pandemic.
As the levels of lockdown slowly progress to level one — when international travel to and from South Africa is possible — initially, only domestic travel will be allowed. Other countries may possibly deny entry to South Africans even after permitting the re-entry of tourists, given that experts predict a delayed pandemic peak only in September.
Additionally, cash-strapped South Africans raging against the dismal economy won’t be too eager to shell out the big bucks for long-haul flights. It’s safe to say, once travel resumes even to the rest of the world, we’re possibly restricted to exploration within borders. It’s not all bad though: luckily, we’re proud to live in a country with a plethora of travel opportunities and the local tourism industry will appreciate a boost and bolster the economy.
South African Airways (SAA), having had a long battle with financial health, seems to have finally succumbed to the harsh economic climate. Although there is a chance the airline may survive, they’re likely to face intense restructuring to do so. Comair, the other huge aviation name in South Africa, operating British Airways domestically and beloved budget-airline Kulula, have announced hundreds of millions of rands lost thus far, and are busy with business rescue plans.
This means, there may be very limited routes run initially once airlines return (with smaller, less-busy routes cut), and further, with only a few planes flying them. Get ready for a possible scramble to book tickets on popular routes, and limited, or cancelled, routes to and from smaller cities.
Airlines are already contemplating different seating plans on planes in order to maintain social distancing measures: these range from simply leaving all middle seats empty, reversing the middle seat so that passengers on these seats face the opposite side of the plane, and installing plexi-glass dividers between seats. Other measures may include testing pre- and/or post- flights, with Emirates having already experimented with pre-flight testing. Meanwhile, some airlines may additionally deem face masks as compulsory. For now, we can only speculate until the skies welcome us again.
Although it may be a while before the way we travel resembles the vitality and familiarity of pre-pandemic travel routines, some time, however uncertain, travel will, resume. Let’s focus on spending the remaining lockdown period on planning out our dream vacations and ideal itineraries.