LONDON – Qantas (QF) has become the next carrier to prepare for travel restrictions easing by introducing the ‘Fly Well’ program in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is understood to be a range of measures that will be implemented by the carrier when operations resume.
The program will roll out in less than four weeks, on June 12, when the pre-flight and on-board elements of the flights will be changed.
Encouraged Use of Technology for Pre-Flight
For the pre-flight section, information will be sent to all customers before they fly in order to prepare them for following strict hygiene procedures.
Contact-less check-in facilities used online or via the Qantas app will be pushed with self-serve bag drops to be “strongly encouraged”.
At the departure gates, hand sanitizing stations will be available for consumers to use including in the Qantas Lounges, too.
In those lounges, increased physical distancing, enhanced disinfection of surfaces and adjustments to food and drink service will be maintained.
The airline has also mentioned that more safeguards will be put in place.
“[We are] working with airports on other safeguards in the terminal, including regular disinfection of security screening points and installing hygiene screens at airline customer service desks, wherever practical.”
No Risks Taken On-Board
The airline will provide masks to all passengers on each flight but noted that it is not mandatory but recommended for peace of mind amongst fliers.
After every flight, disinfectant agents that are effective in removing the Coronavirus will be used in order to enhance cleaning and hygiene standards within the airline.
Sanitizing wipes will be given to passengers in order to wipe down seat belts, trays and armrests as well as there being simplified service and catering to minimize physical contact between crew and passengers.
Physical movement will be limited around the cabin once passengers are seated with sequenced boarding and disembarkation in order to reduce levels of crowding.
Qantas CEO Emphasising Safety But Concerned About Airfares
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was keen to ensure that “safety is absolutely core to how” the airline will be operating during this pandemic.
“We’re relying on the cooperation of passengers to help make these changes work for everyone’s benefit, and we thank them in advance for that. Given the great job Australians have done at flattening the curve, we’re confident they’ll respond positively to these temporary changes to how we fly”, he said.
The CEO also mentioned that he will continue to work with the government, monitor the measures, and make decisions accordingly.
However, he has already been keen to dismiss the motion of social distancing on aircraft.
“Social distancing on an aircraft isn’t practical”, he said in a briefing, adding that he will not be keeping middle seats empty.
He stated that if this was implemented by the Australian government, then only 22 people would be able to fly on a 128-seat aircraft, resulting in an airfare increase that is “going to be eight to nine times more than they are today”.
It was also confirmed that there hasn’t been a single COVID-19 case transmitted via a Qantas flight, with Joyce emphasizing that this is due to the hospital-grade HEPA filters that are installed in the aircraft, offering air re-filtration every five minutes, offering clean air to consumers.
Looking into the summer, Joyce expects operations to get back to around 40-50% by July.
In-all, even though the executive emphasized safety is important to the airline, in the eyes of the consumer, not implementing such social distancing on flights may contradict his statements.
But Joyce is among the likes of Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair CEO, who believes that social distancing on aircraft is not sustainable, with O’Leary stating that the rules are “idiotic”.
It will be interesting to see what the load factors will be like on such Qantas flights when operations gradually increase and whether a lack of social distancing on flights will affect the consumer or not.