December 4, 2020

Business trip during pandemic: testing, empty airports, lonely takeout

  • Alan Kearl is a beauty industry executive experienced in operations, finance, and strategy.
  • After losing his job during the pandemic, he was sheltering in place in Maine.
  • So he had mixed emotions when he was offered a consulting gig that would require travel.
  • Overall, he’s felt safe traveling, but has noticed a lot of big changes in airports and hotels.
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As a C-level executive in the beauty industry, having worked for companies like Estée Lauder and tarte, I normally travel over 100,000 miles and spend more than 35 nights in hotels annually. 

But, since the start of the pandemic, I lost my job and have been sheltering in place. While I craved a return to my normal routine, I wasn’t keen to dramatically increase my exposure to COVID-19. So it was with mixed emotions that I accepted a consulting gig that would require air travel, rental cars, hotel stays, and in-person meetings with people not in my “bubble.” And I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I would find. 

The changes to normal business travel are numerous, with new check-in policies, near-empty terminals and hotels, let alone meeting business contacts from behind a mask — it’s all different. These changes feel similar to those implemented after 9/11. 

I noticed this immediately as I booked my first travel in five and half months, a trip from Portland, Maine to Minneapolis. Although Portland is a small market, it normally has decent flight choices — but not  anymore. Normally there are several fifty-minute direct flights daily to either LGA or JFK, but now I can only get to New York by connecting through another city. On a recent trip to Los Angeles I chose to drive an extra two hours to Boston in order to avoid an extra night’s stay in Los Angeles because of the limited options for returning to Portland. 

At check-in I had to confirm that I hadn’t been diagnosed with, or been knowingly exposed to, COVID-19 in the previous 14 days or have any symptoms, and that I would agree to wear a mask at all times while in-flight.

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