Reopening the Skies

by Anne Van Diepen

This month will be a year since we went into the first lockdown here in the Netherlands. It can be said that Covid-19 keeps transforming our world more and more every day. Travel, along with tourism, are two of the many sectors heavily impacted by the consequences of the pandemic, with government-mandated lockdowns bringing both industries to a halt. Forecasts suggest that within the travel industry the global interest rate won’t return to normal before 2025. So, how can airports adapt to the new normal to recover and stimulate growth? Airports must now start to re-evaluate traditional practices and ways in which customers are handled. This provides us, designers, with a rare opportunity to completely rethink and transform the passenger experience and create a new form of post-Covid travel.

Rethink the passenger journey

As designers, we always begin by analysing the user’s behaviour and needs when improving or creating new products or services. However, you do not have to be a designer to see that Covid has changed people’s behaviour in everyday life. From wearing masks in public transportation to shops implementing ‘contactless only’ checkouts. We expect to see similar changes in passengers behaviour in air travel. The way we used to navigate through the airport, one year ago, is almost unimaginable. People are excited to travel again after Covid, but they are also concerned about how they can travel safely and what obstacles they will face. As we shift our focus from dealing with the present crisis to planning for the future, it is clear that recovery will be aided if passengers begin to have trust again in the safety of air travel. Airports would be more agile to adapt and adjust quickly for recovery if the importance of handling these changes is stressed. Analysing the changing passenger journey and understanding the new behaviour and needs in specific areas of concern will therefore be key. This is an area where we, as designers, can make a significant contribution.

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