Qantas and Jetstar passengers will experience a new way of flying from next month, with both carriers announcing they will be implementing a string of changes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Making the announcement on Tuesday, Qantas Group launched the Fly Well program which will see a number of temporary changes rolled out to keep both passengers and crew safe while in the air.
From June 12, the airline will issue passengers with masks on board, have hand sanitising stations installed at departure gates and enhanced aircraft cleaning between flights.
• Air New Zealand boosts flights to Queenstown for Queen's Birthday
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Flights from NZ to Australia could resume by July, Flight Centre CEO says
• Letters: Air NZ's international flights should follow MoH guidelines
• Coronavirus: Flight Centre offers cheap fares to Europe, North America as sales to China fall
There will also be changes to the way passengers check-in for their flights, with the airline encouraging everyone to use contactless check-in (via online/app) and a self-serve bag drop prior to boarding.
For those who enjoy a quick champagne before departure, it is understood there will be temporary changes to Qantas Lounges across the country, including increased physical distancing, hand sanitising stations, enhanced disinfection of surfaces and adjustments to food and drink service.
It is not clear, however, when lounges will be reopened to passengers.
During flights, the carriers will provide masks to all passengers and while wearing them is not mandatory, from a safety point of view they are recommended to be worn in the interests of everyone's peace-of-mind.
Qantas Group said the enhanced cleaning measures of each aircraft will involve a disinfectant effective against coronaviruses, with a focus on high contact areas – seats, seatbelts, overhead lockers, air vents and toilets.
But keeping the middle-seat free, which the airline introduced in April, will become a thing of the past under the new health and safety measures because the policy is impractical.
"Social distancing on an aircraft isn't practical the way it is on the ground, and given the low transmission risk on board, we don't believe it's necessary in order to be safe. The extra measures we're putting place will reduce the risk even further," Qantas Group Medical Director, Dr Ian Hosegood, said.
Before seating, passengers will be given sanitising wipes to clean their seat belts, trays and armrests themselves.
For those who enjoy a meal on board, the airline says the catering service will be simplified to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers.
Crowding will be minimised by implementing sequenced boarding and disembarkation, while passengers will be encouraged against moving around the cabin mid-flight.
"Safety is absolutely core to how we operate and that applies to new challenges like managing the risk of coronavirus so people can fly with confidence," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
"We're relying on the co-operation of passengers to help make these changes work for everyone's benefit, and we thank them in advance for that. Given the great job Australians have done at flattening the curve, we're confident they'll respond positively to these temporary changes to how we fly."
Customers will also be given improved flexibility when booking, including the waiving of the change fee one time if you decide to change the date of your travel. Customers will have to cover any fare increase (if relevant) for the new booking.
Further flexibility has been introduced for international bookings (excluding trans-Tasman). Customers with an existing Qantas or Jetstar international flight booking, for travel between August 1 and October 31, 2020, who wish to change their plans, can cancel their booking and retain the full value as a flight credit.
Qantas' announcement comes after reports on what the transtasman bubble may look like and what health protocols may look like for airlines.
Last week, the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) created an expert panel, the Transtasman Safe Border Group.
It includes representatives from Border Force, health authorities, quarantine authorities, airlines and airports.
The panel will spend three to four weeks discussing protocols that will be passed on to both governments.