At its core, travel can be defined by two aspects: connections and experiences. Whether a corporate traveler or a vacationing tourist, travel makes connections possible and those connections define the resulting experience.
For today’s travelers, both how they connect with others and how they experience travel are rapidly changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. New safety and sanitation measures mean less person-to-person interactions and—the silver lining—a greater focus on the health and wellness of the traveler. This is particularly apparent on the frontlines as airline agents, hotel housekeeping staff, and transportation crews follow a pandemic protocol built to last beyond the transition stage and carry over into the “new normal” of future travel.
Rules and restrictions continue to change, but below we’re ready to walk you through the travel journey and the safety measures you may encounter once your travel fully resumes.
At the Gate
The travel rules enacted after 9/11 were designed to make travel safer, and at least one of those restrictions is being rolled back to better adjust to current safety concerns. The U.S. Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has announced that each traveler may bring one container of hand sanitizer (up to 12 ounces) through security, superseding the existing limitation on liquids. Other countries, such as Canada, have followed suit with similar rules.
While travelers may take comfort in having additional Purell in their carry-ons, airports around the world from Seattle to Singapore have upped the number of hand sanitizing stations by the thousands. Airlines are also doing their part, including providing their own dispensers and allowing travelers to hold onto their mobile boarding passes rather than passing their phones to gate agents. Boarding has also been reconfigured for many airlines, prioritizing smaller groups and lines to ensure safe social distancing practices.
On the Plane
Onboard, airlines have heightened sanitation steps. Most notably, Delta, American, and United are among the airlines that have begun the process of fogging in between flights. This added sterilization step coats the air and surfaces of the cabin with a disinfectant that kills germs but poses no risk to customers and crew. Once sterilized, the air is filtered to remove more than 99 percent of airborne particles via HEPA air filters throughout the flight.
Prior to the pandemic, most flight attendants already donned gloves for many aspects of direct customer interaction, but don’t be surprised if masks become a de facto part of uniforms for the foreseeable future. Additionally, in-flight food and beverage services have been canceled or streamlined to minimize touch points between flight attendants and customers.
In the Car
When arriving at or departing the airport, travelers should limit their exposure to an unknown environment by relying on a Travel Management Company (TMC) and trusted ground transportation options. Use your TMC to confirm with car service partners the steps being taken to disinfectant any surfaces; cars should be cleaned between every passenger change. Similarly, check with rental car providers before making a reservation. Ride share companies have announced plans to distribute face masks and disinfectants to drivers, but individual drivers ultimately decide how and when to apply safety measures, making it more challenging to guarantee a clean environment. Avoid taking public transportation, exercising the proper precautionary measures should you need to use the bus, train, or metro.
At the Hotel
For most business trips, more time is spent in the hotel than any other part of the travel journey. Although hotel occupancy rates are currently at an all-time low, travelers will expect hotels to have enhanced their sanitation processes once they’re back on the road. Hilton has announced a new CleanStay initiative in partnership with Lysol to enhance the cleaning protocols they are taking in response to COVID-19. Others including Hyatt and IHG have reaffirmed their commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of both guests and workers.
While the outlook for food service in hotels continues to evolve, expect room service and the ways in which food is delivered to take on even greater importance. Conversely, the pandemic may mean the end of the much beloved (or maligned, depending on which traveler you ask) breakfast buffet, at least as it existed in its previous form. New changes are already on the way, with added elements like individual-sized portions and sneeze guards.
Prepare for the unknown ahead by consulting travel experts. If you have questions or concerns for when travel resumes, the Direct Travel team can help you strengthen your standard of care and safety policies.