Safety first – how the travel industry is keeping travellers safe

Over the last eight months, the global travel industry has implemented a range of measures to welcome customers back on board and continue transporting them safely from A to B. Health experts say that Covid-19 is transmitted via direct contact between people, so much has been done to minimise human to human contact between travellers, as well as reduce human contact with shared surfaces, provide lots of practical information and guidance re: best practice, and encourage the use of technology to support a carefree journey.

Even before arriving at the airport or railway station, increased safety measures are obvious to see: it’s now mandatory to wear face coverings in taxis and on public transport in many countries, taxi drivers ask for contactless payment, hand sanitiser points can be found on underground networks, buses tape off seats to limit capacity and many stations operate one way traffic systems for passenger.

Once you’re at the airport, you’ll find similar social distancing measures in place, including hand sanitisation points and enforced mask wearing. At Gatwick Airport in the UK, you will be greeted by staff behind protective screens at check-in, boarding and the gates. Seating arrangements have been amended to keep travellers apart, and tannoy announcements and signage introduced to remind passengers regularly wash their hands, particularly after touching shared surfaces such as the security trays.

Customers are being encouraged to check in online, print off boarding passes in advance or store them digitally, and limit themselves to hand luggage (hold luggage can be touched by as many as eight different pairs of hands between check-in and the carousel at your destination).

Other suggestions have included introducing temperature testing at entry points, limiting access to terminals and using automated bag drops. Passengers are being requested to provide health and contact information prior to arrival and some countries are asking for coronavirus tests 24 hours before flying.

At the gate, many airlines are boarding fewer passengers at a time to minimise crowding, as well as taking temperatures at the top of the steps. Research led by Atlanta’s Emory University in 2018 showed that the risk of catching something on a plane is actually pretty low, and that reduces by another 5 per cent for window seat passengers, who are less likely to move through the cabin resulting in less contact with fellow travellers.

Many airlines are keeping middle seats free (except for households travelling together), toilet queuing and cabin-wandering are discouraged, and food and drink services are being restricted. Airlines are operating a deep cleaning protocol between each flight and some are increasing filtration, with cabin air being refreshed as frequently as every two minutes.

Hoteliers have also gone above and beyond to protect passengers during the pandemic. By definition, hotels are places to gather and are frequently crowded with staff, guests and shared objects. As with airports, guests will notice increased signage starting at the lobby; you may even notice the furniture has been removed or rearranged to give guests more space.

Many hotels are encouraging passengers to use their mobile phones to check in, access their room, make requests, order room service or even an outside food delivery. Where bars and restaurants are open, they will be running at reduced capacity with mandatory reservations and many are offering click and collect or grab and go services. Lift use will be restricted to one person or household and there will be no left luggage options, so be sure to pack light.

Housekeeping is perhaps the area where you’ll witness the most changes. Staff will be encouraged to disinfect their hands and wear full PPE before making beds using fresh linen – often including duvets – that haven’t been used by other guests for at least 72 hours. Rooms may be serviced on departure only when they will be thoroughly deep cleaned and disinfected, but not throughout your stay. It’s more likely that guests who have booked long stays will have their rooms switched instead.

On departure, payments will be contactless, invoicing paperless and room keys immediately sanitised. But to be 100 per cent confident you are choosing a hotel that is certified to have taken measures to ensure your safety, look for the new green Hotel Safe logo in the Traveldoo booking tool.

Launching in November, this special icon has been introduced so that travellers and bookers can instantly identify which hotels have made the requisite changes to put customer safety at the forefront in 2020 and beyond.

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