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Hey all! Cade Haddock Strong stopped by W&W with some insight on the travel industry during/after the Covid 19 pandemic—specifically focusing on the airlines—which are near and dear to my own heart. Check out her super cool blog and drop a comment to be entered into a drawing for a PRINT book to be sent either domestically or internationally! I’ll do the drawing next Monday, or Tuesday…somewhere around there!

What Flying Might Look Like in a Post-Coronavirus World

Since coronavirus arrived on the scene, hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs and an innumerable number of small and large business have been crushed financially.

For nearly twenty years, I worked in the airline industry, and it’s devastating to talk to my friends who still do. My old co-workers and I are a tight bunch, and most of us are aviation nerds. A few of them sent me pics of items they have on their desks or bookshelves.

(Because I don’t know how to make the pictures line up in a row, they are vertical. Cade sent them to me nice and neat and I can’t replicate it. In fact, Cade was nice enough to embed all the pix in the text and I can’t figure out how to make it all copy over at once!)

Like many other sectors, demand for the service airlines provide evaporated virtually overnight. According to the TSA, the number of people traveling by plane has dropped by about 96% amid the coronavirus pandemic.

When we do return to the skies after all of this, I’m guessing flying will look and feel different than it did pre-coronavirus. Some of my predictions:

No more middle seats. While I’m sure few will shed a tear at their demise, the removal of the middle seat would have at least one major drawback. Flying might get a lot more expensive, becoming a luxury even fewer can afford. Fewer seats, means higher fares. There’s a reason why flying first class is so expensive.

There’s a very good chance many airlines will die during this pandemic too. In fact, a few have already folded. When this pandemic is over, many businesses may have neither the money nor the inkling to send their employees traveling like they did before. And there may be fewer places for road warriors to go. It could be awhile before people feel comfortable at large gatherings, a conference or trade show, for example. This would spell disaster for most airlines. Business travelers are their bread and butter. Fewer airlines equals less competition, which of course could translate into higher fares as well.

It’s also possible the days of the super-sized double decker Airbus A-380 may be numbered. The monster plane was in trouble before coronavirus hit, and now the thought of stepping foot on a plane with 500+ seats seems downright terrifying, to put it mildly.

For those who aren’t familiar with the A380, it’s huge (as the photo above attests). It has two full-length decks of passenger seating. It has more seats than any other aircraft.

Here’s a chart comparing the size of a 747 to an A380. As you can see, the 747 is actually longer than the A380, but remember the A380 is a double decker, just like buses in London.

While no airline currently operates an A380 with an all-coach configuration (a thought that makes me shudder), Emirates flies an A380 with a 615-seat layout, an arrangement they refer to as ‘high density’. I’ll say.

When the A-380 prepared to enter commercial service fifteen short years ago, I remember thinking the plane was super cool. I couldn’t wait to see one and dreamed about flying on one someday. At the time, I worked at a consulting firm that advised airports. We forecasted future demand, developed noise models, and devised master plans. Stuff that might put a lot of people to sleep, but I loved it.

Back then, airports were trying to figure out how they were going to accommodate the new A-380. Think about it. A plane with 500+ passengers. That’s a lot of people wanting to get on or off all at once. Airports had to reconfigure terminals, including:

  • Gates. There needed to be enough seats and ticket counters.
  • Baggage claims. More passengers, means more bags and more anxious travelers crowded around the baggage carrousel.
  • Jet bridges. One feeding the upper deck and one feeding the lower deck, and maybe a third one for good measure.
  • Immigration and customs. As if the lines aren’t bad enough!

Airports also had to make sure the A380 could safely navigate the airfield. Some taxiways couldn’t accommodate them because they were simply too big.

If the A380 disappears from commercial passenger service (it may stick around as a cargo plane), I’ll miss catching a glimpse of it at various airports around the world. I only flew on one a single time (FRA-DXB), and even though there were a lot of people on board, it did feel roomier than any other aircraft I’ve ever been on. And if you’re lucky enough to fly business or first, the A380 offers some pretty cool amenities like private suites, a bar/lounge, and some even have showers.   

If airlines stop packing us in like sardines perhaps, we’ll return to the glamour days of flying. The days when people actually got dressed up to fly, and free hot meals were served to all passengers on board. And I’m not talking about those little tin foil wrapped meals, I’m talking the real deal. According to this photo filled article about the golden days of flying, British Airway’s flight attendants used to hand-carve entire hams in flight! Imagine that.

Of course, there are certain aspects of the old days that I’d rather didn’t make a resurgence.

Smoking. I’d take a middle seat any day over sitting on a plane clouded with smoke.

Sexual discrimination. Back in the day, many stewardesses, as flight attendants were called then, faced mandatory retirement by 32. If they married or became pregnant, they were out. According to this article, in 1966, a New York Times classified ad for stewardesses at Eastern Airlines listed these requirements: “A high school graduate, single (widows and divorcees with no children considered), 20 years of age (girls 19 1/2 may apply for future consideration). 5’2” but no more than 5’9,” weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height and have at least 20/40 vision without glasses.”

Layovers/refueling. According to their website, Qantas began offering overseas flights in 1935 using DH-86 aircraft. Service between Brisbane and Singapore took three and a half days. Today Qantas serves that route with an Airbus A330 and the trip takes just over eight hours, or at least it will when Qantas starts flying the route again after the threat of coronavirus eases.

Fun fact (and I have to admit, I did not know this), Qantas stands for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd (Q.A.N.T.A.S).

One other fun fact, the Dutch airline KLM (an airline I used to work for) holds the title of the world’s oldest continuously operating airline. It started service between London and Amsterdam in 1919. Qantas started a year later, in 1920.

Given I’m an airline nerd, it’s not surprisingly that my latest book, Fare Game, has an aviation theme. It’s a about an airline executive who blows the whistle on a massive price fixing scheme. There’s a little romance in there too.

Fare Game is available from Bella Books, Amazon and Bookshop.org

One lucky commenter will win a signed paperback copy of Fare Game, so please do leave a comment below.

CADE HADDOCK STRONG is the author of Schuyler House (2017) and Fare Game (2019), both released by Bella Books. Cade spent many years working in the airline industry, and she and her wife have traveled all over the world. She loves skiing, hiking, biking, golf and tennis. She currently lives in Washington, DC but has lived all over the US and abroad.

Find Cade here:

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27 comments

  1. Three cheers for all things nerdy!
    And I guess you might be right that flying will become rather more expensive – which might cheer the Greta-fans but will put a big strain e.g on tourism in many countries and will cost a lot of jobs there. The repercussions will be greater than many can yet envision.
    Visiting across the US or intercontinental travel might become a luxury.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am almost afraid to admit this, but I have never flown. I like the look of airplanes. I like to watch airplanes. I have been to the EAA Aviation Museum more than once. But, the idea of being up in the air in one of those flying machines scares the heck out of me. Drives my wife crazy. Obviously, this puts a damper on our vacation options.

    Reading about flying, and about airplanes, does not scare me. I would love to read this book!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Lol, Thanks! Usually we travel by car, but we have vacationed on an island which required a boat trip, obviously. The funny thing about that is that my wife hates boats. Someday maybe we’ll try a trip via train. That sounds fun.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Teresa, you’re in the drawing! My own cousin Paul has not flown commercially, either. He and his wife had booked an Alaskan cruise of a lifetime for this June, and he would have had to fly there. I imagine he’s relieved.

      Like

  3. I once had a job that required me to fly every week. I am so glad I am no longer in that position. Things will definitely be different when this pandemic is over. I will fly again, but not at the frequency I have in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot of people are in the same boat. When they return to the skies, they won’t fly with the same frequency as they did in the past, at least not for a long time. My wife used to fly almost as much as you did in your old job, but her company has banned all international travel until the end of the year unless it’s deemed ‘business critical’.

      Like

  4. Hi Cade-Can’t wait to read your new book. I was hired by Pan Am in 1966, and yes, those rules re age
    height weight were applied, and I was hired to do the international route as I spoke fluent French in those days. The most disturbing part of the interview, was having to walk down the office, turn around and walk back!
    Having been in the travel industry for over 50 years, it’s all very confusing to see how airlines will rebound
    International flights most likely will not start again until the end of the year if then. Same with cruises and bus tours. The most important thing travelers want now, is to know they are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cade, your book has been on my ‘want to read’ list since it was published and your post about the future of flying has me relieved that my days of airline travel are behind me (and have been for years). I hope if airlines fold that the staff will be taken care of before the CEO’s and other suits, bigwigs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I worked in the airline industry for 35 years, so am a nerd about airlines and flying. So fortunate to have travelled so much of the world when it was much easier and less crowded than nowadays.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hot meals again sound great but I would hate to have to dress up just to sit on an airplane. I go for comfort, however I do take the time to look presentable unlike those in their ratty old PJs 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting post, thanks, (and I loved Fare Game). I’m a nerd in general but there really is just something about planes. Before all this hit we had the good fortune to get to land on the shortest commercial runway in the world on Saba, in a little Twin Otter. The runway is 400m carved out of the cooled lava! Then a few days later we were in the water while the last KLM 747 took off from SXM a hundred metres away. (My Dutch nephews who were with us later had great fun trying to teach me to correctly pronounce “Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij”)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So cool about landing on Saba in a Twin Otter! I’ve never been there although I’ve watched the planes come into SXM (I’m also a nerd about airport codes, btw). My coolest runway experience was in Botswana. We had to abort take off when a bunch of giraffes wandered onto the grass strip.

    Dutch is not an easy language!

    Liked by 1 person

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