Today I want to talk about my experience about traveling internationally after the European travel ban has been removed.
When the government announced the removal of the travel ban and the first request from a customer about an on-site meeting came in, I had to step back and think about the risks of traveling while covid19 is still very much present.
I could have simply said that I would prefer to work remote, but I took this as a chance to define my own requirements for a safe travel during this time.
So as an architect I first came up with different “Design Choices”:
Type of travel: flying, own car or public transportation?
Public transportation – at least for longer distances requires the continuous use of a face mask and I cannot control how many people are travelling in the same car/cabin etc. So this is currently a no-go for me.
Flying: As long as I don’t need to have a temperature check at the airport (afaik required when travelling outside Europe), I consider flying as an optional transportation method to going by car. The airplane cabins have only a limited space for passengers and the air-condition system is designed to filter the air multiple times per hour. Additionally, flying is usually faster than other public transport – therefore you do not need to wear the facemask as long.
Own car: best option in terms of risk of infection – but it depends on the distance and the time it takes to reach the customer. In my case, as I needed to travel to Salzburg, I had to weigh 850 km, or 8 hours by car versus a 1h car ride to the airport plus 1h flight.
So my “Design Decision” was to try the option to fly to Salzburg.
Next “Design Choice” was on hotels:
Which hotel can offer the best and safest environment for me to reduce the risk by having very high standards on hygiene.
Many of the smaller, family operated hotels are suffering as there were no tourists in the last three month. The question is – if they are already suffering – are they willing to pay for additional cleaning during this crisis? I had my doubts – knowing this won’t help those smaller hotels – but I decided to go for bigger chain hotels that probably have better resources available for a proper hygiene concept.
With these “Design Decisions” made, I accepted the customer request and booked my flight and hotel.
As I did not know what to expect at the airport, I arrived early – having in mind that I still could spend some spare time in a lounge. I got an email from Priority Pass that most of their lounges are open but offer limited services.
The Dusseldorf Airport (DUS) was not very busy, so I was able to check in my luggage very quick and went through security in 10 minutes. However, the security control lane they prepared was huge, as they created it with a 1.5m distance between travellers in mind. So, with the airport fully operational, it would expect a way higher waiting time here.
Having gone past the security so easily, I went down to the Lufthansa Lounge in Terminal 1 in DUS only to find out that the Lounge is closed. Never mind, I thought, lets go to the Priority Pass Lounge in Terminal B. Unfortunately, Terminal B is currently closed as there are not enough flight operations to justify two terminals. Bad luck!
So, I stayed at the gate seating area which was prepared with stickers, so that you always have an empty seat between.
Boarding went just as normal, except wearing a face-mask of course.
Inside the plane I had the middle seat free with a 3-3 seat combination in an Airbus 319. However – some of the middle seats were occupied. I don’t know if the people were traveling together and chose to sit together or if this was done by the airline system. I would prefer to have the middle seat unoccupied, but I think this could not be guaranteed. Let’s see what happens on the way back home…
Everyone was earing a face-mask and the climate control was on full power, so I think the risk sitting in the plane was not higher than going shopping in the supermarket.
Arriving in Salzburg, we were welcomed by the police and the military (this was the first and only flight that arrived in Salzburg on Monday). They just checked the names and the travel-purpose and then I was good to go, got a Taxi and went to the customer.
The customer – working in Healthcare – was very well organized. They have hand sanitizers everywhere and have seating and walking plan for the cafeteria etc. So I felt quite comfortable here – not really high at risk.
After work I walked to my hotel and got soaked by a rain shower – bad luck again.
At the Hotel, I got an room upgrade – finally good luck again – along with a letter stating that the hotel’s lounge is closed and only one of the hotel’s restaurant is open – bad luck again.
The upgraded room was really nice and clean. As it was still raining cats and dogs, I decided to use the one and only hotel restaurant which was a upper-level Italian restaurant.
As a compensation for the closed lounge I was able to enjoy an absolute tasty dinner for free – yay! good luck again.
All in all – looking back at the first day including traveling – I can say that traveling is not as it used to be, but if you are prepared and made your own “Design Choices”, it is ok to start travelling again. Probably not as frequent as before, but possible.