With business travel recovery in full swing, CWT’s Robin Handley lays out what to expect on most international trips. Turns out it’s not so daunting after all.
I used to travel for work quite a bit before the pandemic. So, when I was recently asked to join my peers in London after the long pause of Covid, I admit I was really looking forward to it.
I quickly realized there were noticeable differences in my end-to-end trip experience. Not bad, just different. Traveling these days takes extra preparation, thoughtful planning, and, perhaps above all, patience with the new normal.
As with any trip, I started by making sure my profile information was complete and accurate. When I paused to think of just how long it had been since I travelled internationally, I experienced a brief wave of panic. Passport!?! Fortunately, my passport, Global Entry and TSA pre-check had not expired. I was good.
About a week prior to my departure date, I started to look into Covid restrictions. I think this pre-travel research is intimidating for many travelers post-Covid. Who can keep up? Fortunately, using the myCWT platform made access to this information quick and easy and knowing any relevant security alerts or advisories would be sent to me, I had the information I needed to travel with confidence.
I was ready to pack my bags. Unsure of what to expect when I got to the airport I was grateful that I had already mastered the art of packing a week’s worth of clothes, shoes, and toiletries in a single carry-on. That is one thing that I didn’t expect would change — traveling with less is better.
One last piece of the planning puzzle: Transportation to the airport. I live a good distance from the airport. Considering the rising cost of gas, tolls and parking, it ended up being more cost-effective using a car service. Times have changed.
Upon arrival at Chicago O’Hare international airport, I was pleased to see the terminals bustling with travelers. The mask mandate had been lifted and there was a mix of people with or without masks and that felt pretty normal. It is what I had expected and I think what we can all expect moving forward. It is a personal choice.
Getting through security had not changed much. With my digital boarding pass on my mobile phone, I zipped right through and worked my way to the lounge. Patrons were pretty spread out in the lounge and I noticed the “help yourself” buffet style snacks had been replaced with QR codes to view and order food and beverages. Different but just as convenient.
I know the carriers do a tremendous job of deep cleaning the aircraft, however part of getting situated in my seat included wiping down the surfaces with an anti-bacterial wipe. I noticed a few others do the same as an added safety precaution.
The experience for the duration of the plane ride in business class felt very similar to pre-pandemic days. I was offered water, champagne or juice before take-off and regular food service was offered with glassware, silverware and china. This was really nice and I was glad the airline recognized this experience as something business travelers value.
After arriving in London, I met one of colleagues near baggage claim and we shared an Uber ride to our hotel. Ridesharing was still the most convenient and cost saving choice of ground transportation.
We had 2 ½ days of in-person meetings as well as an opportunity to spend time with some of our suppliers. The personal connections, ability to cover a vast range of topics and strategic planning was truly incredible and something you just cannot replicate via a web conference. It was clear my peers were equally appreciative of the face time—proof that travel will always be a critical business lever.
Twenty-four hours before my return flight home, I was required to take an antigen Covid-19 test to show proof of a negative result. The process was surprisingly easy and fluid. My results were sent to me via email within an hour and I simply uploaded them on the airline app and electronically completed my attestation form and proof of vaccination. I was cleared to go home. Despite feeling safe the whole time, I had a big sigh of relief.
It felt so good to travel internationally again and see the airports filled with so many people, clearly excited to be travelling again too. The end-to-end experience gives new meaning to Willie Nelson’s classic… ”I can’t wait to get on the road again!” even if some things are different.