How To Travel In The New Normal: Bobby Cuenca Interviews Experts
Several moons ago at the height of the lockdown, when I couldn’t even step out of my front door to take a stroll and was thereby sinking into a sea of despair, I took a leap of faith and bought a ticket to New York. Ever since then, I’ve been wondering if I could indeed take the trip. Last week, the news I’d been waiting for arrived, at last! I can finally engage in what the authorities quaintly call “non-essential travel”.
Now, I must take stock of an alien travel landscape.
After talking to a few knowledgeable sources, the first order of business I learnt is for the traveller to ascertain whether one’s country of destination will even allow a Filipino in; after all, the Philippines is considered a “hot spot”.
Next, check the protocols imposed by the airlines. I’ve heard horror stories of hapless passengers being turned away because their swab test took a few hours longer than the prescribed time limit. Then there’s the small matter of having to wear a mask and shield all throughout the flight, however long it may be. Finally, there looms the dire prospect of having to quarantine oneself for 14 days, which will cut deeply into anyone’s travel time.
Given all the potential mishaps seemingly inherent in the new normal, I thought it best to get it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Philippine Airlines has this to say: “The requirements vary depending on the traveller’s destination. For PAL, we require all our passengers to pre-register online as we shift to a more contactless way of travelling. On top of this, countries may require travellers to download a mobile app for their whole stay, accomplish other online forms, book a quarantine hotel, hold a travel and medical insurance and secure a negative COVID-19 test result in the specified validity timeframe.
As requirements change at short notice, we encourage travellers to prepare ahead and always be updated on government and border patrol advisories of their destination.
Passengers must expect a documentation check on top of standard check-in protocols per destination. Because of these enhanced measures, the whole check-in experience may take longer than what we were used to. We encourage our passengers to use our online check-in service and remind them to be at the airport at least four hours and three hours before departure for international and domestic flights, respectively.”
Turkish Airlines has this to add: “In order to minimise physical contact with the environment, travellers are only allowed to take their personal and valuable belongings with them in the permitted size ... all other cabin baggage will be received during the check-in process as registered baggage. Before each flight, no- contact boarding is in place ... Cabin crews in protective equipment also take a temperature check. On board, passengers are provided with a hygiene kit consisting of a mask, antiseptic wipes and a hand sanitiser. Meals are also served in packed single use only products. Turkish Airlines also have Hygiene Expert cabin crews on board our flights to enforce all hygiene and social distancing measures.”
What about staying in a hotel? The Shangri-La group are using contactless technology to create “a more efficient, seamless check-in experience”. Golden Circle members can enjoy the ease of mobile check- in with the Shangri-La app. Non- members can choose from the online pre- registration options. Both the app and online pre-registration will enable guests to complete the registration information, travel and health declaration as well as select payment options. Shangri- La has also launched a digital guide which enables guests to curate their staycation experience from a handheld device.
It goes without saying that all airlines and hotels have adopted an extensive and wide-ranging cleanliness campaign which will make the most anal-retentive fanatic feel like a complete failure.
Thinking about the hoops that we must jump in order to travel has given me a brilliant idea. Taking a leaf from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I say put me in suspended animation, place me in a pod and revive me when I get to my destination. Just make sure some wayward computer doesn’t shut me down before my time.
Read more: What To Prepare For Essential Travel In 2021