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My dream of travelling tomorrow

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Jean-Marc Bourreau, our Director of Aviation, envisions big changes for air travel. In a future not so far away, old headaches in the aviation industry will have become a thing of the past.

Tomorrow, I will travel 

I will leave my house, close the door and take a car service directly to the departure terminal.

I had the option to have my luggage picked up in advance so that I can leave with just my carry-on, but that’s not for me. I want to savour the feeling of closing my luggage at the very last minute.

When I will arrive at the airport, there will be no line. Why should there be? All public and private services in the world that require a waiting process offer seated waiting areas by now. These areas all offer proper distancing from other people, too. It’s not uncommon for people to read or watch videos as they wait for their flight.

The days of closely standing in line and pushing several pieces of luggage are over.

Check-ins involving interactions with real people are mostly out of the door as well. These days, I can just log into my travel wallet app and provide all information requested. I’m not worried about identity theft, because I know that all data will be erased once the trip is over.

Tomorrow will proceed a little differently. I will probably need assistance from a real human. You see, I’m to meet my brother at the airport. He made his travel arrangements separately, and we want to sit together on the plane.

We also have to take a connecting flight. It’s important that our luggage follows us all the way, even if we’re using two airlines during the journey. 

I am a bit nervous about all the information that I need to communicate prior to travelling. But it’s really not that difficult. Despite airports having gone full virtual, it’s still quite easy to get a real person to help. I can even get to the airport 30 minutes in advance to make sure everything goes well.

Being not that young, I did not grow up attuned to online mobile apps – very much unlike this generation.    

After dropping my luggage and providing the requested information to an airport agent, I will go through security. These checkpoints now employ sophisticated scanners that can detect items in luggage and carry-ons. I won’t need to take out anything; I won’t even have to stop walking.

There will be no need to go through immigration either. We will have shared all relevant travel information with official authorities well in advance.

Boarding will be easy. There will be more than enough space to store my carry-on. Travellers have learned about the importance of social distancing some time now. There is no risk of being in physical contact with other travellers unless we choose to.

The flight will be pleasant one. Individual seats have become quite roomy. The space between seats can transform into a bench for families. Usually, I can even have this spot all to myself if nobody is next to me. Tomorrow, though, I’ll be sharing it with my brother.

After months of restricted travel back in 2020, it became evident that air travel had become very unpleasant. Seats on planes and in most waiting areas were arranged as if we were sardines in a can. Who knew that increasing legroom would make air travel so pleasant again?

All these improvements were made possible since global airlines and authorities came together to enhance passenger experience.

Bad memories

We shouldn’t take this progress for granted, however.

I still remember the stress of not knowing the specific passenger regulations at each airport I’d visit. I shudder when I think of that time when I had to pay an extra fee for my carry-on. It was a brutal way to learn that each airline observes different size restrictions for carry-ons, to say the least.

At another airport, a security official asked me to take out my laptop for an inspection, only to immediately drop it. He did not take responsibility for the cracked device.

I also remember the disbelief in my wife’s eyes when authorities seized her perfume bottle in transit. No one seemed to agree on its size. The same bottle had gone through a previous screening without problem.  

Traveling today

Nowadays, if we can’t bring an item with us on the plane, we can have it tagged and stored at the airport. They would ship it to our destination or wherever we choose to send it. They can even ship it back home for a small fee.

Waiting for flights has never been more enjoyable. Some of the country’s nicest shops and restaurants have moved in the terminal. The quality of the products you may find there will surprise you. I’m excited to join my brother as we take our time visiting these stores tomorrow.

Convenience stores, which used to be commonplace, have since disappeared. Flight services have become so inclusive they’ve effectively run them out of business.

Lessons learned 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the problems in the flight industry. It made us realize that the way we approached problems was misguided.

Before the pandemic, we’d respond to travel incidents by ramping up security measures. Decisions were made in a hurry; we never sat down to think about improving or reinventing our passenger services. We paid little mind when these measures traumatized passengers and worsened the flight experience of billions of others.

It’s actually quite amazing that we became so accustomed to the unacceptable.

The pandemic also taught us how to live alongside a dangerous global crisis. Before the vaccine for COVID-19 was found, we had to learn how to use technology to limit direct contact at the airport. Abolishing close-quarter queues not aligned with social distancing, it was also the right thing to do all along.

The improved efficiency showed us just how much time people lost dragging suitcases in queues. Airport staff all agreed that donning masks and other protective equipment was a small price to pay in exchange for more fluid processes. With queues suspended, both staff and passengers have been experiencing less stress than before.

Looking forward 

When we arrive at our destination, exiting the airport will be a breeze. All the information they need on arrival would have been received several hours before our landing. Travellers whose situation needs to be verified will be informed on arrival.

The rest? They go through a fast lane, where their travel document is scanned once. Just a few years ago, officials were still stamping pages and pages of passports that looked like thick novels.  

As I will pick up my luggage on arrival (I like to keep my luggage with me instead of having it shipped directly to my hotel), I will marvel at how easy it has become to find my way out and to buy a gift for the friends we will be visiting.

Yes, tomorrow I will go through an airport. And for the first time ever, I’m looking forward to it.

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