As we begin to navigate our new reality during the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of us are wondering if we’ll ever be able to travel again. “Normal” travel, as we once knew it, is likely gone for good. But as states “reopen” and travel picks up, what changes can we expect of the travel industry? What will be different when we arrive at the airport, board a plane, or check in at the hotel?
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
On the Aircraft
- Masks will likely be required on all airlines, both for travelers and employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. If unsure, check with your air carrier or simply bring a mask to protect yourself and others.
- Some airlines will conduct temperature checks upon boarding, forbidding those with a fever (above 100 degrees) to board.
- Expect decreased beverage and food service, in order to limit the touching and handling of items (cups, snacks, etc.). This also distances flight attendants from passengers and minimizes contact.
- Possibly removing middle seats or leaving them empty, although some airlines may require you to pay more to keep the middle seat unoccupied.
- Boarding planes from the back to the front, to avoid passengers mingling while getting seated.
- Longer boarding times will be likely due to social distancing and the new boarding patterns.
- Some airlines are playing with the possibility of installing plexiglass separators between seats.
- There will be an increase in disinfecting and cleaning in airplanes, something that should have been done at regular intervals anyway.
- As many countries are restricting international travel due to Covid-19, be sure to check the latest international entry requirements before booking travel.
At the Airport
- As of this posting, TSA will NOT be doing temperature screening on travelers. However, this may change. It is likely that if TSA is not doing temperature checks, that your airline might check temperatures upon boarding.
- TSA agents at the airports will visually inspect your ticket only, limiting contamination and handling.
- If there is a problem with your bag during inspection, expect that you’ll have to take the bag, unpack it, and send it back through the x-ray machine. TSA agents want to limit touching any travelers’ items.
- It’s recommended that food be placed in clear plastic bags before going through x-ray machines.
- Putting small, loose items (phone, wallet, keys, etc.) in bins will not be recommended as the goal is to have less people touching the bins. Small items should be placed in your bag or purse before sending them to be x-rayed.
- I’d expect more hand sanitizer pumps available around the airport, fewer (if any) dine-in options and dining tables, as well as removal of water fountains, installing water bottle refill stations instead.
- Airline lounges have been closed due to Covid-19, so if you’re planning on visiting one, check the airline’s website first to see if it’s been reopened.
- Most large hotel chains are implementing a more thorough cleaning and disinfecting between guests.
- Some hotel executives are thinking about eliminating daily housekeeping and only cleaning between guests, limiting guests exposure to staff and vice versa.
- Free continental breakfast buffets may become a thing of the past. When I had to travel earlier in May, all that was offered at my hotel were bottles of juice, granola bars, individually wrapped muffins, and oatmeal packets. Coffee was to be made in your room.
- I don’t expect hotel gyms and pools to be open anytime soon. Aside from ensuring appropriate social distancing, hotel staff would have to be diligent about disinfecting pools and maintaining proper chemical levels to ensure safe swimming, as well as regularly disinfecting gym equipment.
- Larger hotel chains will try to phase out the use of key cards, requiring guests to use their smart phones to access their rooms.
Implications for Future Travel
In the future, will we need to provide a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling? Will travelers need to provide documentation of antibodies to Covid-19 or carry proof of vaccination when a vaccine is available? I would expect the travel industry will want to verify the health status of passengers as soon as we get some sort of mass testing in this country.
Until we get a vaccine for this dreadful virus or implement some kind of quick testing to prove people aren’t infected with Covid-19, we’ll likely be living with these changes for the foreseeable future. Just as the airlines industry was forever impacted by the attacks of 9/11, I expect this will be our new normal for travel during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, when you travel, expect less person to person contact, more sterilizing/disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, reduced touch points, increased distance between people, and everyone wearing face masks.
Be sure to stay safe while traveling and keep washing those hands!
sources: cnn.com, marriott.com, united.com, aa.com, thepointsguy.com