Travel in a Coronavirus world: Reminders of 9/11

I overheard someone comparing the coronavirus travel experience to traveling after 9/11, and I don’t quite agree. I took a Phx to San Fran to London flight a week after 9/11, and I remember standing room only in one of the bars, where people stopped to watch a live feed of the President.

DFW was empty for a weekday afternoon. Like taking a red eye and your flight is the only thing scheduled.

We spent our layover in the AA Flagship lounge. Have you ever been to an AA lounge at a major hub in the middle of a weekday during spring break? It should have been jam packed, but it was… empty. So empty, most of it was closed, and we were funneled into the First Class lounge.

There were maybe a dozen people there.

Let me tell you, Coronavirus was no joke to the airport staff. They were cleaning tables constantly, bathrooms were cleaned before they got dirty, the woman cleaning the ladies reassured us that she had just wiped down the door handles and we could touch them. The smell of disinfectant was heavy.

This is where we had our final “go or no go” discussion. We went.

At the gate, we finally saw people wearing gloves and masks.

We boarded a Qatar Airlines A350 and thoroughly wiped down every nook and cranny of our seats. Buttons, TVs, controllers, cubbies, latches, levers.

The curtains kept us from seeing the rest of the plane, but if our cabin was any indicator, the rest of the plane was only half full.

Qatar Airlines flight attendants were vigilant with their safety measures. Attendants wore masks when serving food, used napkins to open and close doors in the galley, and wiped down bathrooms after every use. Maybe these were measures they always practiced and I didn’t notice it before. I noticed it now.

And I have to admit. Knowing the flight attendants were being so careful made me feel more relaxed.

I get the comparison to travel now versus travel after 9/11. It’s the only event we can relate to, but the enemy is far more powerful.

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