Travel after lockdown: Fewer flights, more legroom
A top finance expert has warned airline travel will never be the same, and customers should expect travel to be more expensive in the long term as coronavirus decimates the airlines.
As Australia prepares for the possibility of travel restrictions lasting the full year, and airlines pleading with the government for support, it is clear the air travel industry will be significantly changed in the wake of COVID-19.
When international air travel resumes, social distancing protocols will likely be followed in order to reduce the risk of a second wave of coronavirus; but if airlines are forced to leave seats empty to accommodate social distancing, will customers be charged more?
Banking and Finance Associate Professor at UNSW James Doran said that the way people travel is going to change forever.
"So the airline industry is going to go through a massive transformation," Professor Doran said.
"That's going to mean first staff reductions, it's going to mean less flights," he said.
"And they're going to have to think about things like 'we can't stuff 180 passengers into this small tube anymore', and so ultimately, it's going to become more expensive."
Professor Doran said the higher prices won't be dumped on the customer straight away, but rather air travel will become more expensive in the long run. If you're hoping to take a holiday after coronavirus restrictions are lifted, you may actually find it cheaper initially.
"Ultimately it will become more expensive, but at the initial phase, it will not be because the demand to travel and because the amount of planes that we have and the need to actually keep those things up, up and running.
"The airlines are going to want to try to attract consumers as much as possible, almost to re-establish it's safe to come and fly again."
Professor Doran believes that with the growth of video conferencing platforms like Zoom, the need for business travel will significantly reduce after the pandemic. He said the airlines have to be careful not to price themselves out of the market.
"My belief is what we will see is a fundamental change in the airline industry, where we will see less packing in wider seats and eventually higher prices that we will pay a little bit more.
"We won't have as many options, but the flight itself will look slightly better until people are comfortable because we're not going to be so cramped in part of it because of the new social distancing."
Originally published as Travel after lockdown: Fewer flights, more legroom