Travel in the Time of COVID-19 – Part II
A couple of weeks ago I shared some insight into some essential business travel I’ve been doing over the past two months. I just returned from another trip to San Antonio. I was curious myself to see what the changes might look like, given that some states – like Texas –have now begun to open up, and I definitely noticed some changes in my own comfort level flying the friendly skies. So this one’s for all of you armchair travelers!
Monday 8 am flight out of Boston. Intentionally connecting through Minneapolis, not Atlanta, as Texas is still requiring passengers arriving from certain destinations to quarantine for 14 days and, call me crazy, but I prefer to avoid a state police greeting as I deplane. (Side note: Mind still blown that Massachusetts isn’t on the list but not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.) Still taking old school Metro cab to Logan instead of Lyft; can’t imagine why the rationale requiring drop off at a common Ride App location still stands (it doesn’t – maybe three cars at departure curb at 6:30 AM) but am cutting arrival time so close these days I don’t want to chance the hike to the Terminal from Central Parking. Good thing too, because today there was a line maybe 15 deep for check in when I arrived. Not sure if it was a result of only three agents on shift, no customer service agents directing passengers, no bag drop agents or something else….but it was the first line I’ve seen during my COVID travels.
Security is still a breeze so don’t worry about renewing your CLEAR membership just yet; TSA Pre Check will suffice. It’s interesting that CLEAR is even staying open right now…I wonder if they are still offering fingerprints or just eyes as a safety precaution….but I digress. The TSA agent asks you to remove your mask so they can make an ID from your license, and TSA Pre-Check passengers still get a card to identify that bags can stay packed/shoes can stay on. Had time to hit the Delta Lounge, which was a necessity to get a cup of coffee because everything is still pretty much closed. At one point I was quite literally the only person in the entire lounge save for the one Delta employee. Boarded flight, pounded water, ate my home packed breakfast (remember, no food). Done.
I didn’t check Minnesota’s state of openness before I left, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find in Minneapolis, which is not only a HUGE airport but also a Delta hub. Arriving around 11 am CST, I immediately came across the Delta Lounge on my way to the gate. I didn’t have much time, but I popped in anyway, mostly out of curiosity. Definitely more people but nothing crazy, maybe 12 in all. Same pre-wrapped snack selection, no shared condiments for coffee, etc., but this was the first lounge where people were both sitting and being served at the actual bar, not the holiday house party set up I’d seen prior in Detroit. I grabbed another coffee because I didn’t know what I’d find, and made my way over to Terminal C. Apparently coffee was the least of my worries…passed by an open Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Caribou. Passed a couple of open Hudson News-type spots, as well as Buffalo Wild Wings, Joe & The Juice and a few other places to get food. Not particularly busy, but open. Of course, much more was closed…most retail – save for an Aveda store, which was kinda rando – and pretty much all other full-service restaurants. Probably the most interesting thing to be closed was the Tram that shuttles passengers amongst gates. Makes sense I guess…but it wasn’t closed in Detroit or Atlanta, and there certainly wasn’t going to be a situation of overcrowding because there simply aren’t enough folks in the airport.
Arrived in San Antonio, no cops, nothing open. But the line at the rental car desk was legit. One day, already two lines. A sign of things to come?
I was interested to see what a state in the process of reopening would look and feel like. There were more cars on the road, but nothing that could constitute the word ‘traffic.’ The hotel had returned all of the furniture to the lobby, and had begun putting out coffee in the morning again. There were definitely more guests…it no longer felt as if we were squatters in a haunted abandoned hotel being run by one lone masked, Purell-scented employee. Housekeeping was cleaning rooms this time, but there was no breakfast offering and the pool was still closed. I made sure to find a place to get a well-needed mani/pedi. I actually got out of my car to go into Starbucks instead of drive thru…but if you watched the Insta story, you know how that turned out. Target was accepting returns again. I was in meetings too late every night to try a restaurant, but I saw people eating at them, and that was enough for me.
Returning home six days later, flights proved to be difficult. Everything had two connections, an even bigger waste of a day, so I just parked myself at the Delta Lounge in Detroit and worked for six hours. They had upped their game from my first visit; in addition to pre-wrapped snacks, they set up a “ramen bar” with Cup ‘o Noodles as the main attraction alongside hard boiled eggs, scallions, etc. Hard pass, but truly, kudos for the effort, Delta!
It was interesting to note that now, in Detroit, the Tram between gates also wasn’t operational. I have to imagine that’s due to the airports wanting to cut costs more than anything, because there’s no way standing in a train with a small handful of people is more likely to spread the disease than any other part of air travel.
Flight was easy. Definitely getting busier but they are still leaving seats between passengers. Will be interesting to see whether their safety “policy” changes once they have the bodies to fill the plane. Still no beverage/snack service, just the baggie of water, chips and Purell wipe. And still freezing.
Home, Lyft, suitcase in garage, sauna to kill anything, and life goes on. The travel will continue, with Indiana and Texas again next month. Am even contemplating driving down to NYC next week just to be there for a few days because I miss it, but I am getting shit for that idea from many, so may rethink. This time around I definitely noticed some positive changes in my own comfort level; for me, it was just like normal travel, but better: minimal people, no delays, guaranteed upgrades. Of course I wear my mask when I can’t social distance, I wash my hands, and I try not to touch my face, but I found myself less militant and on edge about catching the virus at every turn, which was a welcome change emotionally and psychologically. I certainly don’t think I’m invincible, but with all of my recent travel, I truly feel that there is no way in hell I haven’t already been exposed. My last antibody test wasn’t positive, but I plan to test again next week so we’ll see. Regardless, I feel my body figured it out and is doing its best to protect me. So long as I continue to do my best to protect it, which has meant plenty of sleep, water, solid nutrition, supplements, minimal alcohol and sauna sessions, for better or worse I can say that I’m not as concerned as I was a month ago, which gives me hope for the near future as we in the great state of Massachusetts also start to reopen and get back to the businesses that we’ve worked so hard to keep going.
Hope this has been helpful. Feel free to email, comment, or DM me with any questions, happy to answer if I can!