(Note: this is a post I started last Thursday before Pinkerton’s accident, but I think it’s still an interesting discussion to have as I wrap up this blog.)
Today’s question is courtesy of Lilly; she asks what I think travel may look like when restrictions are lifted, and what I think about hopping back on a plane.
I’m guessing that travel will be challenging for many, many months. From a practical perspective, with temperature checks and socially distanced lines, the airport experience is going to become more protracted and unpleasant. Flying itself will look different – no middle seats, and, on flights that are not long-haul, no cabin service. And I can’t imagine what protocol will be put in place for bathrooms on board – sanitizing between each use? – I think the airlines have a lot to figure out.
Airlines themselves have cut flights by over 70%, and we don’t know when (and if) they will return to anything close to their flight schedules pre-pandemic. This means not only fewer flights but fewer direct flights, which will force passengers to route through hubs, resulting in exposure to even more people. It also means longer trips and more inconvenience for passengers.
In one sense, I’m not looking forward to the experience of traveling again – it was uncomfortable and exhausting to begin with and I feel like it’s going to be worse, at least for the foreseeable future. And there is the very real fear of exposure to Covid, particularly within such a confined space (although, to be honest, with their HEPA filtration systems planes may have cleaner and less contaminated than most buildings.)
In another sense, I’m looking forward to travel. Part of it is practical; I need to travel to get to work, and I can’t wait for both work and travel to return to my life again. Part of it is because I miss my friends around the country (and the world) who I usually get to see regularly as my work takes me to the cities in which they live.
And part of it is the nature of travel itself. I love being somewhere else, somewhere new, the anxiety and excitement of the unknown, the sense of possibility and the sheer novelty. I’ve loved having time at home during this lockdown, but part of me thrives on the stress of constant movement, negotiating new spaces, encountering a city and its people for the first time. It sparks my brain, gets my neurons firing in a way that nothing else does.
I don’t know when I’ll be hopping on a plane again. But I do know it will be an adventure.