CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Travel.
It's something Condé Nast Traveler Contributing Editor, Mark Ellwood says is nothing to feel guilty daydreaming about; "It's important to remember travels the 7th biggest private sector employer in America. It's a really big part of our economy."
Travel is responsible for millions of jobs, and at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Cascade Township, their CEO, Tory Richardson tells us that business has dropped 95% from where they were this time in 2019.
Richardson remarks, "That's pretty much the same picture that you're seeing at airports across the US."
Airport restaurants are closed, rental cars are overflowing into the lots from lack of use, and travel needs to take off once again!
Richardson says airports are working around the world, and the clock to adapt; "Most of the airports at this point are looking at can we do everything possible to make this a, a seamless but touchless journey? So that you're not touching a lot of people, keypads, door handles, you name it."
What does seamless travel look like?
New, heightened cleaning has already begun, and soon to come in the next 10 days at Ford Airport:
- Plastic Guards between customers and attendees.
- Social distancing markings in lines.
- More space between customers eating in dining areas.
- Less seating at boarding gates.
- Boarding travelers sitting in the back of the plane before travelers sitting in the front.
- Have less seats on flights.
"I think as new seating comes online, the design of that new seating is going to offer more passenger protection," says Richardson.
"So it's going to be configured differently with a work-space that's not going to put you right next to somebody, but maybe have a shield between you with some of the architectural design that they can incorporate."
Richardson projects that taking away seats will raise airline ticket prices in the long run.
"So traditionally they like to fill the airplane at least 80%, and that would make money for them. If they're saying now social distancing is going to say, take 60, or 50% of the seats... Now they have to figure out how to make that money on a much smaller base," remarks Richardson.
"And that's going to be the challenge for them."
At this moment, airline ticket prices are down.
Ellwood informs, "Airline tickets are really cheap right now. On average, a domestic flight is about 150 bucks cheaper round trip than it typically would be."
Now is the time to book ahead price wise, but Ellwood reminds us to be smart while we do so; "Any flight you booked right now remember, you've got to be flexible. Don't make any fixed plans around it. Grab a great seat on a flight and think, 'I really hope I can take it later in the year,' and just keep your eye on how the situation develops."
Top ways to be flexible include keeping up to date with local regulations, and always buying travel insurance.
"The key here is something called cancel for any reason C-F-A-R. It will mean your insurance is a little more expensive, but it gives you ultimate flexibility," says Ellwood.
Also check with your credit card.
Many cards have travel insurance bundled with them when you buy a trip.
Finally, if you're nervous about a trip you already have booked for 2020, Ellwood advises; "If you have a trip booked for the winter or the fall, I would say, hold on until about a month beforehand, then you'll have a really good sense of where the country is standing and what the policies are."
Top airlines say the recovery from this travel defecit will most likely take 2 to 3 years, but travel will adapt.
"Today we had a line at the queue, and we haven't seen that for several weeks," says Richardson.
While the airlines rebound, and continue to work, Ellwood says remember; "Travel is a business, and lots of people's jobs depend on it. When you spend money in a resort town at a B&B, you're paying someone else's mortgage. Don't feel awkward thinking, 'I wouldn't mind a vacation right now.' It's not inappropriate. If you do it safely, and thoughtfully, it's a really good gesture towards helping the economy rebound, and you enjoy it. So it's a win win."