It’s been a pretty dynamic year in the travel industry, to say the least. In early March, planes were packed as everyone jetted south for some well-deserved time in the sun. By mid-March, the door had been slammed closed, and airports and resorts became ghost towns. Cruise ships were sent into layup, and we all stayed home. As summer blossomed, though, travel began a slow (and sometimes unsteady) rebound. As travel restrictions ease, and we learn more about Covid-19, more and more people are expanding their circles of discovery and travel is rapidly resuming. In recent weeks, for example, the TSA has screened more than 800,000 air travelers each day – in April, they averaged 83,000. As more of us start to consider moving our personal travel dreams towards actual travel plans, I’d like to share some insights from my recent travels into what today’s traveler can expect.
No matter where you travel, expect to see extensive health and sanitation protocols everywhere. At the airport, masks are required, staff are constantly sanitizing surfaces like self check in kiosks and restrooms, air filtration systems have been upgraded, and lines for check in and security have been re-engineered to minimize crowding. At hotels and resorts, public areas are also constantly cleaned, lines are minimized, and shared amenities like pools and fitness centers have had their capacity reduced to permit distancing. Restaurants and other food service venues have also changed, with capacity limits and changes to serving procedures to avoid cross-contamination. How clean? Well, I used to work in a hospital, and the level of cleanliness I’ve personally observed during my recent travels far, far exceeds the usual standard of a pre-COVID hospital.
If you’re planning to fly, you’ll encounter an additional level of health and sanitation on any flight. Delta Air Lines in particular has implemented the most comprehensive protocols. Delta electrostatically fogs each aircraft before each and every flight, then employs a staff of eight to fifteen to hand wipe every surface on the plan with sanitized wipes – seats, try tables, arm rests, overhead bins, handles, and bathrooms. Boarding and disembarkation are done in small groups, to avoid crowding, masks are required (with no exceptions), and all Delta staff undergo daily health screenings and COVID tests prior to working. Onboard, middle seats are blocked on every flight. I was surprised to learn how clean the air is on a commercial aircraft – 100% of cabin air is replaced every six minutes, operating room-quality filters are used, and the air circulates up and down, creating a sort of air barrier between each row of seats.
If you’re thinking about a cruise, well, we will have to wait a bit longer for full details on the return to service in North America. Although river and ocean cruises are currently operating in Europe, the cruise lines and CDC won’t be taking the necessary steps towards that here until late September at the earliest. Stay tuned for details.
The short story of traveling today is this – today’s traveler will encounter a series of comprehensive and scientifically-based health and sanitation protocols unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, designed to protect and give us peace of mind while we travel. In a time of uncertainty, I find that tremendously reassuring.
Ted Blank is a luxury travel advisor at Ted Blank Travel.