The ‘New Normal’

Christine Vasquez - Thursday 30th April

Today I read that after lockdown, passengers may need to get to the airport four hours before catching a flight as health screening measures are introduced. Once on the plane, social distancing will probably have to be maintained: that coveted empty seat will always be there, that screaming baby will be two metres away. This may be air travel’s ‘new normal’.

The phrase ‘new normal’ has been used recently by politicians warning of change. It was the Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez’s catchphrase this week as he gave details of an exit package. No more steamy nightclubs, no more packed restaurants, and even the light at the end of the tunnel wears masks and gloves.

So how do new normals creep into our existence so they become just normal?

I’ve been watching “Mad Men” - don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s about advertisers in Madison Avenue. It’s set in the sixties, so there’s smoking everywhere: in the office, in restaurants, and at home with the baby. There’s plenty of drinking at work and afternoon naps on the office couch. Then there’s an episode where the family goes on a picnic and when they finish, they just shake the rug and leave all the litter behind - and I won’t even mention the treatment of women.

So we take it that all that changed, because we evolved. We grew up, and as a society, we became better educated and more sophisticated.

But then there are seminal moments which force change, and push in the new normal.

Going back to air travel, who remembers turning up at the airport, half an hour before the flight, with a ticket? You didn’t even have to have your name on it. You were fed. Coming back from London, you could part with your luggage and check in your bags at Victoria Station.

When did tickets become non-transferable? When did airlines start needing advance passenger information? When did we start having to take off our shoes and get X-rayed? Yet, this is air travel as we know it now.

Till we find a vaccine for Covid-19, this pandemic and the subsequent lockdown will, like 9/11, be the catalyst of change. Our lives will never be the same. A version of this is our new normal.