The aviation industry has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic, with the coronavirus grounding entire fleets and halting traveling for airlines and passengers.
As traveling restarts amid the easing of lockdowns around the world, airlines are trying to adapt to a new normal that's far from the way they used to do business pre-COVID-19 – especially for cabin crews.
"What you usually do is you try to take care of your passengers the best way you can, have a lot of contact with them, try to show all your interest and talk to them," explains Annette Groeneveld, president of the Dutch Cabin Crew Association (VNC).
"And now, actually, what you're doing is you try to keep your distance, and that dynamic on board is so different that it leaves you a bit stunned when you finish the flight, because you hardly know how your passengers have experienced your flight. So it's quite unnerving to see how things have changed in so short a time."
According to Groeneveld, respecting social distancing on planes is not financially sustainable for airlines, which have based their business model on densifying capacity on their cabins to offer lower prices. And the changes that airlines have made in the past few decades to keep their businesses thriving while offering very low prices to passengers have restructured cabins in a way that makes social distancing impossible for cabin crews and passengers onboard an aircraft.
"Airlines are stuffing too many passengers in their cabins," says Groeneveld. "There is not enough space for cabin crew. We have aisles that are as wide as our trolleys. There is no way anyone can go. So I think we really have to rethink how we want to travel."