Holiday Air Travel on the Post COVID-19 Radar

Suddenly this summer, when it comes to air travel, everything appears to be almost back to normal even though some reports claim that only 60% is back. However, fewer flights than in a normal pre Covid-19 summer, and fewer staff are creating desperate situations at many passenger touch points. People are jostling for availability of airline seats and holiday opportunities. At airports, It is a busy time once again, and some Travel companies are already proclaiming their best year ever!

What Started It All Off?

Several countries have suspended or removed Covid-19 restrictions which had inhibited travel. Over 55 countries have announced they have no Covid related restrictions. Most of these countries are in Europe. The list is growing. Many countries even state that they have no pre-travel Test requirements. In spite of the relaxation of rules, 31 countries from among the 55 countries, continue to have their borders closed to tourism.

Tests Cancelled?
Tests Cancelled?

The United Kingdom announced on March 18, that it was lifting all remaining Covid-19 restrictions. The Country is leading from the front, on the total removal of restrictions. Many other countries seem to be saying, “If the UK can do it, we can as well!” The number of countries withdrawing travel restrictions is increasing by the day.

The Airlines Point of View

Everything from moth-balling aircraft, to reduction of staff in all areas, to companies going under, has happened. It has been a turbulent never-before-situation.

The airline industry has been one of the hardest hit by the Epidemic. Everything from moth-balling aircraft, to reduction of staff in all areas, to companies going under, has happened. It has been a turbulent never-before-situation. Everyone the world over, has been waiting for a revival. It appears the time has come for the skies to open. Hopefully this time, for good. The signs on the radar, have been very encouraging.

Rush at Airports
Rush at Airports

Getting travellers back in the air matters. Airlines are beginning to report a summer rush and ticket prices are going through the roof. They are even reporting delays due to the rush and bottle-necks at critical points at various airports. The situation is mainly due to staffing levels with airlines that are struggling to bring back the numbers required to handle the rush of passengers.

I would even go so far as to say the passengers should plan to be at airport check-in areas at least ninety minutes before they normally would. Being early will help get through crowded areas in a calm and relaxed manner. 

Airline Tickets and Hotel Costs

The result of the sudden upsurge of travel has resulted in the upward trend of airfares as well. The Los Angeles Times expects the approximate increase in airfares to be 47% above the levels for the same period in 2021. Skyrocketing jet fuel costs as a consequence of the Ukraine war situation, do not help.

Hotel Capacity Stretched
Hotel Capacity Stretched

The LA Times also claims that hotel costs could be more than double that of the levels two years ago. Hotel prices through out the world are expected to rise. If we review that phenomenon, it is always simply a matter of demand and supply. When the demand goes up and there is a finite number of rooms in supply, hotel rates, will go up.

The Critical Staffing Situation

Organisations in many different parts of the world are beginning to need more staff. Not surprisingly, many find that not all their former employees want to come back. The work-from-home environment seems to suit many people. They have created new income streams for themselves and do not wish to move from the comfort of working from home! Others have moved to different jobs and do not wish to go back to the organisation that could not protect their jobs during the height of the Covid-19 unemployment situation.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

COVID-19 Vaccinations
COVID-19 Vaccinations

What restrictions still exist in which countries? There unfortunately is no central source of information for the travel requirements and entry regulations of different countries. It is impossible for one organisation to keep track of all the changes and update their information on a minute by minute basis. 

It is the sole responsibility of the traveller to check on all travel requirements. It really is not even the job of the Airline or the Travel Agency to update there traveller on Visa and entry processes. I would advise a traveller to check with the airline of travel (they are usually updated by their own head offices), and the Embassy or Consulate of the relevant country, before making bookings. Rules can change any moment without adequate notice. Travellers just have to accept potential change in regulations. The listed requirements can change any minute.

What if One Cannot Travel Due to a Sudden Change in Regulations?

I would recommend that travellers buy Travel Insurance from a reliable Insurance company. The facility today, is available on the Internet. You can ensure you have the required Travel Insurance before you leave home. I would also recommend that travellers read the terms and conditions of the insurance policy before they purchase a policy. 

Resort Destinations
Resort Destinations

The most important clauses to check are the cancellation of flights and how they cover cancellation of hotel reservations. These are the big-ticket items and can dent your finances, if you are not adequately covered. Many hotels will withhold all prepaid charges, if hotel reservations are cancelled at the last minute. 

There Are All Sorts of Travel Insurance Policies

Travel Insurance Recommended
Travel Insurance Recommended

Another important point to check is how the Insurance policy covers medical expenses at travel destinations. Not all Insurance policies work the same way. There is therefore no way to avoid reading the fine print. It needs to be considered as part of making your travel arrangements. 

Baggage loss is also an important point to consider when buying Travel Insurance. Most insurance companies will effectively cover lost or delayed baggage. Do please check on the allowance to buy first necessities — toiletries, a change of clothes, etc.

Conclusion

The total hit to the global economy according to UN data is about 4 Trillion US dollars. The whole world has been in trouble for over two years. Economies are not going to be back to the 2019 situation without a humungous effort on the part of their populations.

On the medical front, more people have been vaccinated than ever before. According to Bloomberg, 12 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccines have been administered since the start of the epidemic. The vaccination programme continues at the rate of 23.5 million doses per day. 

The decision to travel or not to travel, will eventually be entirely yours to make. What would be critical to decisions made, will be Covid-19 regulations and requirement of the destination country.

I wish you a good holiday and a pleasant summer.

© 2022 Mano Chandra Dhas

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24 Comments

  1. Kenneth D'Souza

    Reply

    Mano! as always you highlight the pain points and like some of my fellow colleagues has stated. Staffing issues, supply chain issues and the general economic outlook with us getting into a bear market globally and inflation in almost every country as it highest in nearly 40 years, It’s is going to be interesting to see how airlines and governments handle these problems. I will speak primary about Toronto Pearson as I have been in an out of there a couple of times. When I spoke to one of the Canadian Border services this is what he told me. This problem is not going to go away anytime soon.
    Previously when you landed in Canada it would take less than a minute to process a passenger provided all the documentation was in order. Now that time has increased to almost 3-4 minutes because of the new Arrivcan app that all travelers must fill before they arrive into Canada. Now some have incomplete information that has to be verified and and so on. Then you go to the baggage handlers and even just the security staff at the airport. Its a nightmare landing at Pearson at the moment. It takes anywhere from 3-6 hours for you to get from the plan to catching a cab or an uber ride and with Summer travel upon us it is going to get brutal. Given the fact that Toronto Pearson gets so many passengers landing here and with an added issues of random Covid-19 tests it a full blown circus out here .Its a catch 22 situation on one side you have the travel demand pick up, on the other side you have staffing issues that can be solved with more money but given the uncertainty of the economy, the loss of revenue for the past two years and the general low moral of staff coming back to these low paying jobs. I would say grab your camping gear, fishing rod, beers and drive away into the sunset. Canada is a beautiful country with a lot to see and no I have not been promoted to Director of Tourism Canada 🙂 Yes yes I am aware that gas prices are through the roof but you have to choose your poison here till there is so solution to this post pandemic madness…Oh did I mention monkey pox??? I will leave that for your next article when Monkey pox takes front and center stage… Again as always pleasure reading your insights as always on case and point.

    • Reply

      Hi Ken. Thank you for your comment. Canadian Immigration may have a point, but even by the Time Factor indicated, you should be through Immigration in 5 minutes. That will not spoil the party. The major hassles that at pain points, is staffing (both Airlines and Airports). In my opinion, that will take years to fix. Akbar Baker (CEO Qatar Airways and your former Big Boss), said recently at the IATA meeting in Doha, that governments hit the airlines by their restrictions and that they cannot expect the situation to go back to pre-COVID levels of efficiency, over night. He blamed Governments! I do not entirely agree with him. I agree that Airlines had their hands tied behind their backs and at the same time asked to operate as normal: they cut staffing. Everything will be back to ‘normal’ someday. New normal? Time will tell us. Fingers crossed until then. Wish you the best on your fishing trip! 😊

  2. Pravin Andrade

    Reply

    Hi Mano, Lovely article thank you for sharing. It’s been a while I left the industry however I love to keep in abreast with the industry evolution. We had travelled to Dubai in April for 12 days and found the whole experience very exciting and stimulating considering the time covid kept us locked up in our countries especially Australia was very severe on its population. I was a bit hesitant to travel but when I entered the airport seeing the energy and excitement around I felt at home. It was interesting to see Dubai open for business. We had to wait for a table at the food court. It used to be so busy. One of the many challenges people face is their passports have expired and they have not bothered to renew their passport due to covid. Suddenly everything had opened up and now they can’t join the other passengers as there is a huge backlog for passport issuances.Australia is facing a huge backlog of passport issuance and renewals.

    • Reply

      Hi Pravin! Thank you for your detailed comment. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Dubai. It was interesting to hear about having to wait for a table at one of the food courts! Yes, some people have not travelled for over two years and during that time many travel related requirements like passports and visas have expired. I am surprised at a huge backlog of passport issuance and renewals in Australia. They had been some delays in Canada as well. I was also surprised to hear of the long delays in Dubai stretching into 2023 for Visa Interviews with the US Consulate. In many cases, a trip can only be planned after obtaining relevant visas. Hopefully it will all blow over soon. One of the main issues currently seems to be staffing. Given a litlle time and patience all will be back to normal before too long!

  3. Val

    Reply

    You have touched upon some very valid points Mano. The price of doing air travel has hit the roof, Airlines are pushing prices and yields up and relieving some of their losses. Customers are now having to pay a premium and don’t mind the extra dollar. The big carriers like EK with the large capacity especially the A380’s are now having a huge smile because their premium cabins are sold out months in advance. What’s happening to the oil price hikes? The war in Ukraine? nothing seems to matter. What matters most is customers are wanting to travel, you can call it pent up demand, revenge travel or whatever. The big question is to now get your staffing right to cope with such a huge demand. That’s where all Airlines are struggling. While the numbers are good, service levels are dropping. The Industry has to step up salaries to get people back as the joy of working in the Airline Industry no longer exists. Those that were there have moved on and don’t want to come back. For me personally having worked in the industry for several years it’s a good feeling to see the turn of events and have planes back up in the sky.

    • Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Val. Yes, Airlines will always may hay while the sun shines! 😊 Staffing is an issue they will have to contend with. I know staff have moved on and many of them that were laid-off or retired early, do not wish to go back unless the offer is very attractive. That’s a loss for airlines. So many highly trained staff cannot be reemployed. My guess is that they will succeed in bringing some back; for the rest of their vacancies, they will have to recruit and train. That will take years? 😊 AIrports are in the same situation. Would you consider going back to work in the Industry?

  4. Fahim Jalali

    Reply

    Some valid points Mano, and I feel carriers took a softly softly approach and tested the water albeit with low cost model (short staffed), to negate cost of failure. Now it’s apparent the appetite and demand exists, they are scrambling to recruit. Can’t blame them but early service and pax have paid the price for this. Won’t last and fingers crossed business as usual as can be expected soon….

    • Reply

      Thank you for your comments. Very valid points, you make. As a seasoned professional, you know exactly where the pain-points are. The biggest hurdle is adequate staffing. I was recomminding to a previous commentor, that organisations could look at bringing back laid-off/retired staff. It would however be a more expensive exercise than was their previous norm: they would have to pay more because they are in a situation of need. What is the other alternative? Take raw graduates and train them? To get them to the levels of the employees they let go, would take years! Yes, it will blow over; but it will take time.

  5. Savio D'silva

    Reply

    I like the structure of the article besides the detail and the comprehension. Well done as always Mano. Perhaps if possible if the list of countries still having their borders closed to travel could have had a mention; then to the traveler it would mean accessing just one source of information; your source Mano. I do understand though that it might be challenging with rules and regulations changing all the time in terms of opening and closing of borders; but still just as a reference point to make the required travel decisions accordingly.

    • Reply

      Hi Savio! Thank you for your pertinent comment. I thought about including a list, but it is far too long with complex individual situations. It was easier to list those who have their borders open. That list is also almost 60 countries with varying degrees of relaxation. Such lists can be found on the Internet, anyway. I therefore decided to skip lists. 😊

  6. Sanath Kumar T S

    Reply

    Well-thought-out and well-brought-out detailed comprehensive article highlighting critical issues and probable scenarios followed up with practical doable work-around s and solutions. You have eased the pressures of potential trevellers. Thankle you!

    • Reply

      Hi Sanath. Thank you for your comment. Right now the only thing travellers can do is to have their certificates in order and get to airports before they would normally go! 😊

  7. CJ

    Reply

    Most interesting Mano. Yes its chaos at airports and Airlines have different rules and regulations making it extremely important for travelers to check the Airline website. I have flown and found its safer to do your RTPCR rather than suddenly get stuck at check-in, since some destination Airports do not have a RTPCR facility on Arrival.

    • Reply

      Hi Carlton! Thanks. What you suggest will releive bottle-necks in the check-in area. It is also true that Airlines and Airports need more staff. As I mentioned earlier, one solution maybe to bring back laid-off/retired staff. The will certainly cost more! 😊

  8. Waseem Rahmany

    Reply

    Interesting article Mano and you are absolutely right staffing is the biggest challenge post pandemic

  9. Neil sauz

    Reply

    Very precise and timely article shedding light on reality of aviation/ travel/ tourism industry at present times.
    No doubt the writer must be a veteran of industry and with his indepth and thorough analysis, it’s an rue opener for travel planners, administrators which will re-model their industry specific core strategies. Thank you

    • Reply

      Thank you Neil for your comment. On the Travel side, the easiest solution is to get more planes in the air. The airlines have the capability, but do not have the staff. They cannot just take them out of University and plug them in. Training professional takes years. The quick solution would be to get the laid-off/retired staff back. It remains to be seen what solutions airlines will employ. 😊

    • Reply

      Thank you Waseem. You are absolutely right. The principal problem is getting staff back into their old jobs. One solution could be to bring back laid-aff/retired staff. It may cost more than they paid previously. The decisions will have to be made at the top.

  10. Rajeev Tamhane

    Reply

    Excellent analysis of the situation Mano.

    Two-pence from my side :).

    Staffing is the major issue. Many of the experienced staff were retrenched, or made redundant. Current manpower is unable to cope up with the work load. Add to that, inadequate training that is provided (technical or soft skills). Job-knowledge does not come with crash-courses. The new salary package is not as before, so even if they have re-called the earlier employees – same enthusiasm or loyalty is not there. Because of the precious experience, they believe that it is merely a 9 to 5 job, no more. Anecdotally, in Boston it took 5 hours to check-in, while in Amsterdam, there was one kilometre queue to get inside the airport.

    One more point – Entire visas process is taking far too long. Starting from appointment – you are lucky to get an appointment in the next 45 days to submit documents. Then the uncertain waiting period for the visa outcome.

    • Reply

      Hi Rajeev, I completely agree with you. I like your statement, “Job knowledge does not come with crash-courses.” Personally I feel that it takes at least 3 years to make a decent Travel Consultant/Advisor. Many people do not believe that. I know from personal experience that there is no substitute for years of experience. The attitude of staff in a service industry need to be right as well. They will over come the situation one way or the other. I’m afraid it will be a quick-fix! This is a situation that cannot be fixed on the fly so to say. Airports are in the same situation as Airlines.

      I did not realise some visa applications take so long to get an appointment. Many countries seem to ride on the back of the US Visa. If the passenger has a valid US visa stamped on his/her passport, it becomes easier to obtain another visa. Some South American countries like Colombia, require no visa if the traveller has a US Visa on the passport.

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