There is no doubt flight restrictions will gradually ease and airlines will begin filling more seats -- the questions are when and how.
And aviation marketing consultancy SimpliFlying says that uncertainty around "how" air travel will change has become a common question being asked by its airline clients around the world.
In an effort to answer that question, the agency has mapped out more than 70 elements of an air travel experience that it predicts will need to change to ensure the health -- and peace of mind -- of travelers.
"Just like how after 9/11 people wanted assurance there are no weapons in flight now they will not board a flight unless they are assured there are no viruses on board," says Shashank Nigam, founder and CEO of SimpliFlying.
"The Rise of Sanitized Travel" outlines ideas for every step of a traveler's journey, from check-in through arrival at the destination.
Nigam says he expects some of the ideas will be common at most airports in the next twelve months, such as disinfecting every checked and carry-on bag, temperature scanners for all passengers, protective screens for check-in agents and in-flight janitors to continually disinfect high-touch areas.
Other ideas are more complex and will take more time and coordination, such as requiring passengers to either upload an "immunity passport" to verify they have Covid-19 antibodies or go through a "disinfection tunnel and thermal scanners."
And similar to the creation of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after 9/11, Nigam says there will need to be a global THA -- Transportation Health Authority.
"We strongly believe there needs to be one single authority that sets global standards in the airport and on the flight," he says.
"This will have to managed by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the World Health Organization and ACI (Airports Council International). In an ideal situation we want consistent health screenings and policies around the world because inconsistency will only frustrate travelers more and suppress demand."
SimpliFlying's predictions also point to challenges that may arise for both travelers -- needing to arrive four or more hours ahead of a flight to go through the necessary checks -- and airlines, "Enhanced cleaning regimes could spell the end of the 30-minute turnaround, upon which many low-cost carriers base much of their business model."
Nigam also sees opportunities for airlines to drive ancillary revenues, such as all-inclusive insurance that would provide a full refund if a passenger is denied boarding due to health concerns. Other revenue opportunities could include selling masks, gloves and an adjacent seat to ensure it remains empty -- although Nigam does not see the value in that.
"I personally think leaving the middle seat empty is like putting lipstick on a pig--it's purely cosmetic. It only makes people feel a little better that there is no one next to them, but there is no scientific evidence to support it," he says.