With the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown restrictions being eased around the globe, so too is international air travel opening up.
But how safe is it to fly right now, and what are airlines doing to keep their staff and passengers safe?
Some operational airlines’ policies on seating and boarding have dramatically changed to minimise capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows.
Others, such as the Doha-based Qatar Airways, are said to be forcing their cabin crew to work long-haul flights without any layover for rest and recuperation – which is an aviation safety protocol.
In ordinary circumstances, cabin crew and pilots must have a period of rest after a long-haul flight to comply with safety rules known as Flight Time Limitations.
An article in Paddle Your Own Canoe, which is run by Mateusz Maszczynski, a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline, it was revealed that since April, Qatar Airways has been sending two groups of cabin crew on short-haul and medium-haul flights, while still allowing layovers on long-haul flights, but those rules have recently changed.
An example was with their nine-hour flight between Doha and Manila, in the Philippines.
Rather than staying in Manila for a period of rest, which is usually up to a day in some cases, cabin crew will now be expected to work both the outbound flight and return sector with only a short time on the ground for the plane to be turned around.
Many airlines now believe this is the best way to avoid their staff being at risk of catching the novel coronavirus during layovers.
But how does this affect quality of service and pilot alertness?
So, the question remains … is this the future of long-haul flights, and how safe is it?