We all know the airline industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only were people in lockdowns for three months, but even as those orders were lifted, people have been hesitant to return to any environments where they may be in close quarters with others. That said, though many are still questioning when it’s safe to fly again, others are ready to get back in the air for any number of business or personal reasons and we are seeing an increase in airport activity. But, even though they may be ready – or, in some cases, simply have to travel due to circumstance – there is still a pandemic raging across the world they have to consider.
While airlines are taking certain measures to limit risk to passengers, some are doing more than others. The question is, how can travelers know which flights are likely to pose the least risk when they’re booking flights?
FlySafe, a new Chrome extension from Pilota can help. The travel tech startup was launched by four grad students from Cornell university with the intent of leveraging AI and other emerging technologies to assess travel risk.
FlySafe lets travelers compare flight safety, health and flexibility measures as they are looking into their flight options. The extension adds an easy to understand rating to each flight option, which extends into a dropdown report with a click to show more detailed information about what each flight offers in terms of health and safety measures:
- Air filtration – Is the flight’s aircraft is equipped with surgical grade HEPA air filters?
- Capacity cap – Is the flight going to be capping their maximum capacity below normal levels?
- Provided PPE – Will PPE be provided for passengers or will they be expected to bring their own?
- Flexible policies – Does the airline offer flexible policies changes or cancellations?
- Seat blocking – Will middle seats or a certain number of other seats be blocked off to increase the distance between passengers?
- Sanitization – Are new sanitization measures part of the flight protocol (see below for more specific sanitization details)?
Users are able to select their own preferences for which safety measures to include, should some be more important than others. For instance, if flexible policies are not important, they may choose to remove that from the rating. Another click of the “More Information” icon opens a new tab for the individual flight with information on additional measures, including:
- Boarding sanitization – Has the airline/airport implemented new sanitization measures to reduce the number of touchpoints and interactions between passengers and the gate staff.
- Cabin sanitization – Have new cabin sanitization measures been implemented for the flight?
- Mask requirement – Will all crew and passengers on the flight be required to wear a mask?
- Food hygiene – Has the airline implemented new measures to reduce touch points during food and beverage preparation and distribution?
- Social distancing – Are social distancing measures being implemented during check in and boarding?
FlySafe says it allows saving flights so they can be accessed later, but currently, that tool does not yet appear to be active. Also, the only flight search site that appears to be functional is Google Flights, though there are indicators that others will be added soon, including: Kayak, Skyscanner, Priceline, and Expedia.
Many people have spent years collecting loyalty points and achieving priority status on their preferred airlines and may choose to fly on those airlines, regardless of safety ratings. But for everyone else – including people with status on multiple airlines – current conditions seem to warrant knowing which flights are taking more precautions. While we all want things to return closer to what we’re used to, COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, so why not pick flights that will put you and your fellow travelers at the lowest possible risk levels?