If you were hoping the COVID-19 pandemic could result in cheaper flights for Canadians, there could be bad news ahead. Experts believe that flight prices are only likely to go up, and post-pandemic air travel is probably going to look totally different. In fact, Ottawa Airport’s CEO simply stated, “it’s not coming back like 2019.”
Since COVID-19 arrived in Canada earlier this year, there’s been a devastating impact on the air travel industry.
With huge airlines like Air Canada being forced to lay off thousands of staff, and WestJet pleading for government help, it’s hardly surprising to hear that air travel is going to look very different post-pandemic.
In fact, according to the CEO of one of Canada’s busiest airports, it may never return to how it was before.
In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa International Airport CEO Mark Laroche stated, “It’s not coming back like 2019.”
He continued, “that doesn’t mean there’s not going to be air travel; it just means it’s going to be different.”
Even if a vaccine was found, Laroche believes that air travel could remain changed forever, and airports will be forced to adapt to the new normal.
He notes that flight options are likely to be reduced due to smaller passenger volumes, and wait times will be longer as each plane would have to be thoroughly cleaned between flights.
“It’s going to bring on change and it will be there way past two years, I’m convinced of it,” he said. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there’s going to be innovation.”
That innovation has already started at Air Canada.
Earlier this month, the airline announced new measures for anybody flying in the near future. Its new protocol includes mandatory face coverings, pre-boarding temperature checks and socially-distanced seating plans.
In a similar move, Transport Canada recently revealed that all Canadians travelling on aircraft will now be required to wear masks covering their mouth and nose.
Unfortunately for travellers, however, this change could come at a cost.
Prof. Frederic Dimanche, director of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, told the Ottawa Citizen that Canadians shouldn’t expect flights to become cheaper after the pandemic.
“I think it will be more expensive to fly,” he said. This would be due to potential bankruptcies and acquisitions, as well as falling profit margins.
Customers are also likely to have to foot the bill for increased physical distancing measures and reduced passenger volumes.
For now, Canadian airlines are getting through by operating cargo flights, and are even completely converting their planes to transport COVID-19 supplies.
While the future could look very different, Laroche predicts the industry will eventually adapt.
“Ottawa needs an international airport,” he said. “We have to stay connected. It’s just going to be done in a different way.”
*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.