Long way down: Trust is key if airlines to bounce back, writes Pól Ó Conghaile
First, the good news. Flying does have a future and it involves the mother of all sales.
We saw it after the financial crisis, when Ryanair sold flights for as little as 99c.
And we're going to see it when planes take to the skies after this pandemic, when airlines swoop to give newly infrequent flyers irresistible incentives to spread their wings again.
That could mean flights from Dublin to Faro or Malaga from €10. Or less.
"We almost don't care," as Michael O'Leary has said. "Our critical thing in the short term isn't to make money, it will be to get our pilots and cabin crew back flying and the aircraft back in the air."
So when will they be back in the air, exactly?
That's the $64,000 question, and all post-Covid-19 predictions clearly come with an Airbus A380-sized health warning.
News that thousands of jobs are under threat at Ryanair, Aer Lingus and BA has thrown the scale of the task ahead into sharp focus.
There will be no V-shaped - or even U-shaped - recovery, no letter of the alphabet can map out what's coming and 2019 is increasingly looking like a modern-day peak for mass travel.
It will be summer 2022 "at the earliest" before those levels of demand return, Ryanair says.
May and June are certainly write-offs. July could see things start to pick-up, with some 40-50pc of schedules taking off on reduced-load factors.
That's presuming Covid-19 doesn't flare up again, of course.
Some travel agents see August, September and October as the new summer. Overseas tourism has been mooted for the Canary Islands by October, for example. Others aren't as optimistic. And winter is coming.
If the glass is half-full - if borders reopen, restrictions ease, destinations begin to unlock and sales prompt us to pack our cases again - what then?
First up, we'll be packing differently.
Passengers on Emirates flights (few as they are) are already being told to wear masks and gloves "throughout their journey".
American Airlines says it will this month start distributing "sanitising wipes or gels and face masks" to customers.
"Definitely masks," Ryanair has told me.
On board, cash and coins will be replaced by contactless payments. The rule will be run over cabin baggage. In-flight services will change, eliminating touch points like in-flight magazines and raffle tickets and shaking up meals and drinks - could they be pre-ordered, left on seats, or will we want them at all?
Middle seats may be left empty as airlines initially struggle to fill planes, but the physical distancing benefits are debatable.
Seats are typically just 17-18 inches wide.
Flying planes half-empty is also, to put it mildly, uneconomical.
"Enhanced cleaning" and "touch points" will become part of our new travel vocabulary. Modern planes are relatively clean vessels for travel, with HEPA air-filtration systems and fewer passengers than, for instance, a busy bus or crowded commuter train carriages.
But nervous customers are going to want to hear about hospital-grade disinfections and see spotless cabins.
In the US, Southwest has spoken of "super-charged" cleaning where electrostatic sprayers apply a fine mist of disinfection agent and antimicrobial cleaner "like a super primer" to all surfaces.
It feels a long way from gripes over seat selection and baggage fees.
They're likely to be a lot less crowded in the near future, but we may need to leave just as much time to get to the gates - thanks to possible thermal screenings, tests, medical questionnaires and new physical-distancing measures at check-in, security, immigration and boarding stations.
In fact, it's likely the heavy lifting in any new hygiene regime will have to be done in our airport terminals. And preferably before we take off, rather than after we land.
Will we need to flash a new 'immunity passport' alongside our regular one? Will we have to take an antibody test?
We're used to self-service bag drops, but you can expect automation to go up another level in the near future, too - from self-service check-ins to contactless store checkouts, restaurants-by-appointment to new protocols around crowded luggage carousels.
Oh, and careful you don't trip over that new sanitising robot!
We'll get used to it.
After 9/11, we huffed and puffed about 100ml liquid rules and removing shoes, but did it anyway.
Increased security and health measures are a bother, but they reassure us. That's the crucial bit.
Many of us want to travel. We miss it. But right now, we're scared. As restrictions ease, if countries unlock and Covid-19 is contained (touch wood), we need to see protocols that make us feel safe about flying with our families again.
We need to see them, not just from airlines and airports, but from governments, aviation and health agencies, the EU… and the rest.
One word will dominate travel from here: Trust.
And the bad news?
Those mega-sales are unlikely to last.
Apart from making no business sense, if airlines are failing, leaving seats empty, trimming schedules and letting staff go, once demand recovers prices can only go north.
By then, however, that may be a good problem to have.