After months of being on the ground, I finally saw the inside of an airport and an airplane again last month when I had the opportunity to travel to an industry conference about how to make events safer.
There was a lot that was the same: the decision to wait until the last minute to pack, the thrill of anticipation as I walked into the airport, the joy that traveling inspires in me, the excitement of being able to reconnect with industry peers.
There was a lot that was different too.
What’s Different About the Airport?
The first difference is wearing a mask and seeing everyone else wear a mask. It’s still a bit surreal. Something that I hadn’t consciously thought about before it was happening was the amount of time I’d have to wear the mask. I put it on before I got into the car (shout out to Metro Car Service for the black car service and ride in style to the airport), kept it on the entire time in the airport, on the plane, in the car to my hotel, and until I got to my hotel room. In total, it was about 7 hours in a mask and that is a really long time when you aren’t used to it (another shout out to everyone else who wears a mask for that amount of time every day!).
Another difference in the airport are the new signs and floor stickers that serve as reminders for social distancing. The reality is that not everyone follows the directions. You may be 6 feet behind the person in front of you in a security line, but you can’t control the person who walks right up behind you in the line. If you adhere to strict social distancing rules, the airport may be a place to continue avoiding for now.
Two Big Differences on the Plane
The first was the distribution of sanitizing wipes to passengers. I LOVE THIS CHANGE AND IT SHOULD HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY. Knowing that I personally wiped down the areas around me that I’d be touching for the next few hours added a little peace of mind.
The second difference was the elimination of meal service in First Class. This is not critically important to me, but it is something you’ll need to think about ahead of time if you are used to eating onboard when traveling during your typical meal times.
The Biggest Differences at the Hotel and Event
Prior to traveling for this event, I received my event packet in the mail. Yes, the mail. Like the old days of event planning. The packet contained the agenda, a regular mask, an N95 mask, and the biggest name badge I’ve ever seen. Name badges will now be much larger because people need to read them from 6 feet away.
The event app also introduced a new feature: health screenings. The app presented you with a health questionnaire every 24 hours that you had to complete. Once completed, you would have a green check mark in the app that allowed you to enter the temperature check point. Completing the temperature check point got you a colored sticker for the day on your badge (another reason they need to be bigger). Then, staff at the entrance to the meeting room checked your badge for the right color sticker to get into the meeting. If you skipped the health questionnaire, you could not enter the temperature check point, which meant you could not get your daily sticker, which meant you could not enter the meeting. There are a lot of logistics to this, and events will require more staff members to handle this level of logistics.
The biggest changes at the hotel were the limited service and staff. Specific to food and beverage, you should be aware that room service may not be available or may only be available with a significantly reduced menu. Restaurant staff and menu selection were also limited in the hotel. The staff in the restaurant was fantastic, but there were less staff members as compared to pre-pandemic. Housekeeping service in the hotel was also very different because there was no daily housekeeping after check-in. Rooms are thoroughly cleaned prior to arrival and once a guest checks in, no one other than the guest enters the room until after the guest checks out. The first question everyone asks me when I say this is “but what about the towels?” I had PLENTY of towels in my room upon arrival, and I like the fact that no one enters the room again until I leave so I view it as a positive change.
If you have traveled in the last few months, what were the biggest changes you noticed? And, do you view them as positive or negative changes?