Future of air travel may look different due to COVID-19

Many airlines are now requiring passengers to wear masks or face coverings, including Delta. The new rules follow outrage on social media over a crowded American Airlines flight with several people not wearing masks. Flight attendant unions and Democratic lawmakers pressed the government to mandate the face coverings. 
National airline expert Seth Kaplan says it’s just one of the many changes you’ll see in the air.

“Minimal service is something else we should get used to,” said Kaplan. “Airlines in recent years, like Delta, the biggest carrier at MSP, have restored a lot of what they took away back when they were all struggling last time, after 9/11 and during the great recession. People got used to getting those snacks, maybe a free beer and wine on a long-haul flight to Europe.”

Now, a lot of airlines have scaled back services for health reasons. Kaplan says those services may not return even after COVID-19 wanes.

“These airlines are back to square one right now, thinking about the needs and not those wants that they started to tentatively started to address in recent years,” said Kaplan.

To allow more room for social distancing, Delta has also been blocking middle seats on flights. It’s unclear though if this a longterm strategy.

Once health experts give the approval for increased travel, Kaplan says it’s going to take some time to bounce back to normal.

“Airlines are probably going to have to discount to get people back on planes, help us overcome our fears,” said Kaplan. “We are clearly in a recession, there is pain, people just don’t have the kind of money to travel like they did before.”

If you have a trip scheduled this summer, Kaplan suggests you be patient and wait to see what happens with social distancing rules before canceling. He says don't be afraid to nix the trip at the last minute because most airlines are being flexible and will generally offer vouchers for changes.