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Sooner or later all pandemics come to an end – when this one does, many of us will be keen to start travelling again. But travel is unlikely to ever be quite the same again. Here’s what I’ll miss the most…
The Queen of the Skies
Boeing’s 747 airplane was the first “jumbo jet”, entering operation in the 1970s. Because it requires 4 jet engines, it is far less fuel efficient than newer aircraft types. With travel demand likely to take several years to return to 2019 levels, many airlines are taking the opportunity to retire their remaining 747 fleets.
Nostalgia aside… why mourn the final days of a 50-year old aircraft type? Basically two of the most iconic travel experiences can only be had on a 747.
1A / 1K in First Class
Nothing in front of you except a window. Nobody beside you – often just a closet to hang your jacket. Flying First Class in seat 1A or 1K is as close to flying private as you will experience on a commercial airplane. You will be nestled into the nose of the airplane – the pilots are upstairs – and if you decide to wax poetic, you’ll be the first person on the plane to lift off and the last person to touch down.
If you can’t manage First Class – plus sufficiently high elite status to select 1A or 1K – you might be flying in Club World. On a 747, that often puts you in the “bubble”, where you and up to 19 fellow passengers will enjoy a relatively quiet Business Class cabin.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to choose 62A or 62K, my favourite window seats with direct aisle access due to the emergency exit. But I will still miss the relative calm of the bubble, even though new and improved Business Class seats are being used by BA and other airlines.
Hotel Breakfast Buffets
In a post-COVID world – where people are hyper conscious of germs and virus transmission – is it really going to be feasible to set out food in a buffet setting and have hundreds of guests help themselves?
Free breakfast is a key benefit for members with elite status at Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt, amongst others. Some hotels and chains might simply provide a-la-carte or even room service breakfast to their elite members. Others will choose to cut costs – a buffet is far cheaper to provide than individual table service – and provide little more than a grab bag of banana and muffin. I’m almost afraid to even imagine what cheaper, breakfast-included brands such as Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn are going to do…
For those hotels that ditch breakfast buffets, I’ll definitely miss wandering down to breakfast and choosing from a buffet whatever I happen to fancy eating that morning. But substantially more research will definitely be required before booking any hotel…
Perhaps it’s at the airport before a flight, or at a hotel with an executive / club lounge, but I am often guilty of grabbing a free meal or drink where I can. But if buffets are deemed to be a health hazard, you cannot realistically expect that most airlines / hotels will move towards sit down service as a replacement.
If you can’t get some free food or a G&T before a flight, is there any point to the lounge (paid or airline) and accordingly making the effort to reach elite status? A slightly quieter (only sometimes) place to sit and read whichever newspaper hasn’t been banned by the airline? Will there still be self-serve cans and bottles to find their way into your carry-on? Or will a bartender do your pouring for you?
With hotels, there are many places in the world where I already enjoy the many local delicacies outside of the hotel. Yet there are other places where, quite frankly, I’d rather have a decent lounge dinner and a chat with the lounge staff, rather than eat at a mediocre, overpriced tourist trap restaurant. I will miss those hotels if they can’t find a way to keep their club lounges relevant.
Admittedly this is a form of “western privilege”… But when you carry one or more “powerful” passports, you become somewhat accustomed to not worrying about entry restrictions – a few notable, visa-always-required countries aside.
I will miss booking weekend escapes, without checking whether I will be allowed to cross the border that particular weekend. I will miss booking a holiday to Asia, being fully confident that Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand will be happy to have me come for a visit. For the foreseeable future, no travel plans are ever going to be completely firm and nothing can be booked without substantially more research…
How About You?
Thanks to the coronavirus, travel will never be quite the same again. I’ve speculated about what travel will look like in the future, and what I’ll miss about the old ways. What about you? What do you expect to miss once travel is once again allowed? Let us know in the comments section.