Grounded: Reinventing Airline Travel
I never realized how much I loved to travel until the gift was taken away suddenly with the appearance of COVID-19. I had three trips in span of three months that were cancelled. The “stay-at-home” order made me feel like a caged animal some days. All I wanted to do was go anywhere and do anything. Did you feel the same way?
Just weeks before a fourth scheduled trip, I wondered if we would get to go. Would Montana allow visitors? Would Pennsylvania make us self-quarantine when we returned? Would we get to fly, or would we have to drive? Most importantly, would we finally get to see our families after months of being unable to travel to be with them?
The airlines are all flying less flights to fewer cities right now. So, our first flight was scheduled to fly from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis to Missoula when I booked it at the beginning of the year. By the end of May, the best flight the airline could offer was Pittsburgh to Newark to Chicago to Denver to Los Angeles to Missoula. Holy moly! I wanted a roundtrip ticket not a ticket around the United States. The chances of us making it to Missoula were slim and none so I rebooked on another airline.
The airports are empty. I suppose this could be good if crowds annoy you, but I viewed it as sad. Where there used to be airplanes at every gate and a busy buzz in the airport, now there was a plane every five gates or so and most of the stores in the airports were still closed. The planes not in use are parked at airline hubs at the end of the runway.
Everyone wears a mask on the airplanes or when in close proximity of others in the airports. This is good for keeping sneezes and coughs to yourself but makes breathing cabin air hot and cumbersome.
Don’t worry about meeting the person next to you. The seat is likely empty, or you are seated next to your travelling companion whom you already know.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
I cannot tell you how many times I have questioned why we load a plane from the front to the back. Everyone in line is waiting on the people in front of them to put their luggage overhead and be seated. Hallelujah! We are loading the plane from the back to the front. No more waiting. Just stow your luggage and take a seat. One airline said this would be the new normal. It is so much faster!
There are also no more carts in the aisles. You receive a bag with water and a snack either as you board the plane or shortly after takeoff. Just think of all the time saved in this process. Staff do not have to procure multiple types of beverages and snacks. The catering service does not have a lot to load on the plane. The flight attendants do not spend most of the flight standing in the aisles. The restrooms are more easily accessible. And, you have you own bag to put the garage in when you are finished with your treat. Now, I am sure you will say this takes some of the fun out of travel but from an efficiency standpoint, it is an excellent change.
Even the restaurants in the airports are making changes. No more menus. Just hover your phone over the QR code on the table to bring up the menu.
I am so excited to be able to travel again that I will embrace the required changes. Some of them for the better and some of them to keep us all healthy.
Have you traveled yet? What was your experience like?