Travel will Come Back. Slowly.

Last week, I got on an airplane for the first time since March 1.  Looking back, the over 3 months since I last traveled is the longest time period I have gone without traveling in my career.  In no particular order, a few random thoughts from my journey:

  1. My friends that have traveled recently told me this and it’s true: “Airports are empty, but the planes are full.”  Airlines are managing capacity quite well.  Be warned:  there is very little flexibility to change your flight times on many routes, even to major cities. 
  2.  Every airline employee I encountered (and I flew an airline not known for service) was beyond nice.  It was almost scary.  Either they have furloughed the ornery employees or, gasp, the airline employees finally understand without passengers, their jobs go away.
  3. The badges of honor road warriors, including boarding the plane first, used to proudly wear are now worthless.  Boarding is done by row, not status.  To add insult to injury, the airlines board from the back of the plane!  It is a much more efficient process than letting the 19 elite groups and credit card holders board first. 
  4.  If you are hungry, eat before you get to the airport.  Most airport eateries are closed.  You can, however, get an individually wrapped donut in the airports I traveled through.  It warmed my heart to see two labels on each donut wrapper.  I think the government needs to mandate all food be individually labeled with a minimum of two labels per serving.  Public health is important.  Labels are important to public health!
  5. I found it (funny, hypocritical, stupid, insert your word of choice) that I was told, verbally and through signs, that I needed to stay at least six feet away from the person in front of me while I boarded the aircraft.  Then, I got on the plane and at least 8 of those individuals sat closer than six feet to me on said plane!  Am I missing something?
  6. The hotel I stayed at was at 10% occupancy.  The staff was excited because the next night, they expected 20% occupancy!  I don’t know how long hotels can last with occupancy rates that low.     
  7. I had a connection in Chicago.  It was quite strange to see no traffic on Chicago highways.  It was also quite strange to see empty flight boards in O’Hare.
  8. The credit card I use for travel was compromised and someone is using it.  Some things never change.
  9. There is nothing that takes the place of meeting in person.  Will we have less in person meetings for the foreseeable future?  Of course.  But eventually, the need for personal connections will win out.  Business travel is down but it isn’t out. 

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