We just got back from a quick getaway to Texas. We flew from Los Angeles to Austin and I figured I’d share highlights of our trip, my observations with the “new normal” way of traveling.
The last couple of times I flew was just right before the March shutdown. We went to Costa Rica for a weeklong vacation in the middle of February. A week later, I had a business trip to Indiana. I also had a business trip planned for Texas, but I cancelled the trip as I began seeing more and more news about the pandemic. We had also cancelled our trip to Japan that we planned back in May.
We’ve been focusing our getaways simply by keeping it local, more of a local staycation. We have been keeping up with the news, and have been reading many things what to expect and how to prepare for a flight during this time, and here’s my first hand experience during our recent trip to Texas.
- Traffic en route to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) – Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2pm, and since I had to work that morning, it wasn’t until past 11am when we left our house. I was expecting the 101 and 405 freeways to be congested with traffic during mid-day, but fortunately, we made it to LAX by noon and did not hit any traffic at all.
- Airport parking and shuttle ride – I noticed Fox Auto Parks parking lot was not as full as they normally would be. There was also considerably less to no traffic at all as we made our approach towards Terminal 1 (Southwest Airlines).
- Ticketing agent counters – no major lines at the counters, I also observed a few folks printing their boarding passes via the kiosks. For us, we had our boarding passes via the Southwest App. We also travel using carryons and backpacks, so there was no need to go to an agent.
- TSA Precheck – I didn’t think I’d need to get to the TSA Precheck line since I was expecting the regular line to have no one in queue at all. But there were at least 20 folks in line, and no one in the TSA Precheck line….yes! We breezed through and went to the front of the TSA Precheck line. Upon approaching the officer, we had to insert our driver’s license into a gadget, removed our masks to be identified, and we were cleared and allowed through after that.
- No airport lounge for me – Prior to the pandemic, one of the main reasons why we didn’t mind getting to the airport early was the fact that we could avail of using our Priority Pass for airport lounge access, or my American Express Business Platinum card for Centurion Lounge Access. With this pandemic, prior to our departure, I checked the lounge or restaurant in Terminal 1 at LAX, and it was not open for business. Scratch the lounge idea. In fact, I don’t think the other lounges linked with Priority Pass at LAX were opened as well. Instead, we ended up getting a quick bite to eat Chick-Fil-A near our Southwest gate.
- Masks and stuff – Nancy was prepared for this trip she brought disposable masks, N95 masks, face shields, hand wipes, and hand sanitizers. Yes, folks, welcome to our new normal. These are now part of our essential travel accessories.
- Southwest boarding call – it has been over 10 years since I flew Southwest. The Southwest gate agent called the boarding groups in groups of 10, that took long but it was necessary to try and maintain the space to avoid overcrowding. To be honest, it was quite organized. The passengers didn’t pile in to the front of the line. We all tried to keep our social distance.
- Middle seats were kept empty – thank you, Southwest for keeping the middle seats emtpy. If I remember correctly, families did have a choice to occupy all 3 seats if they wanted, but in general, the middle seats were kept empty.
- Sanitized before sitting -the hand wipes came in handy, we sanitized the seats, the armrests, the seatbelts, and the trays right before take off.
- Skipped baggage claim – since we usually travel using just carryons and backpacks, we skipped baggage claim, avoided the additional wait time, and avoided congregating with the crowd waiting for their luggage.
- Sat in the middle or back seat – during our shuttle ride, our driver kindly asked us to sit in the middle or back seat vs. sitting next to him – just as an added precaution. In LAX, I did notice that the shuttle bus drivers were also shielded from the passengers (there was a plastic shield between the driver and the passengers).
Overall, the airports we used and the flights we took had no issues. Proper social distance measures and precautions were all put in place. Travel is obviously not in full swing. The flight display monitors were not as full with flight information. Like most of us, I’m hoping for some kind of normalcy with our travels, but I can see how these current precautions in place could stay with us for awhile.
If you have noticed other observations with your own travels, please share.