How I Roll: TPG Senior Cards & Loyalty Reporter Andrew Kunesh

Dec 5, 2020

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Welcome to a special COVID edition of How I Roll, an airport routine series with a focus on health and safety while traveling. Today, we’re asking TPG travel expert and Senior Cards & Loyalty Reporter Andrew Kunesh a shortlist of questions about how he travels during the pandemic, covering everything from how he preps for a trip to what he wears on the plane. Here’s what he had to say. Safe travels!

The itinerary:

TPG: What is the last flight you caught?

AK: Austin (AUS) to Newark (EWR) via Houston (IAH).

TPG: Was the trip for business or pleasure?

AK: Pleasure, I was visiting a friend in Austin.

TPG: With whom were you traveling? If you had a travel companion, what conversions did you have to align on safety precautions? Did you need to reassure them?

AK: I was traveling alone.

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TPG: Did you plan this trip pre-pandemic, or were these new travel plans?

AK: These were new travel plans.

TPG: What’s a trip you’re hoping to take in the future, that’s been put on hold?

AK: I’m hoping to return to Prague soon. I was able to visit earlier this year as I’m a Czech dual citizen. I won’t be able to make my usual holiday trip to visit family, though, since the country is currently locked down. I hope to visit once the country starts to reopen.

 

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Related: The complete guide to dual citizenship for American citizens

Pre-departure prep:

TPG: What does your pre-travel to-do list entail?

AK: First things first: Packing my backpack. I’m a tech nerd, so I put my iPad, MacBook, Bose headphones and chargers in my backpack first. I’ve also been traveling with a couple of extra masks in case one breaks when traveling.

I also download new podcasts and music to my phone before I head to the airport. This keeps me entertained and makes me less reliant on spotty in-flight and airport Wi-Fi, and I’m sure it makes my phone carrier happy too.

Oh, and I always keep a couple of spare KN95 masks in my travel backpack. This covers me if a mask breaks or otherwise gets uncomfortable in-flight.

Related: Face shields and sanitizer: 5 things we’re packing for flights during the pandemic

TPG: Are you getting a COVID test? If so, what kind?

AK: I get a COVID rapid test before I travel. Thankfully, the pharmacy near my apartment usually has them in stock and has results within minutes. That said, I’ll opt for a PCR test if it’s required at the destination I’m traveling to.

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

Packing strategy:

TPG: What items are you packing to protect yourself from coronavirus?

AK: I always keep a stock of KN95 masks around for travel. I find these to be more comfortable than reusable masks as they fog up my glasses less frequently. I also always have a small bottle of hand sanitizer around too.

TPG: Is there anything you are leaving at home that you would normally take?

AK: No.

TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?

AK: Work MacBook, iPad and their respective chargers. I also take a big backup battery with me in case I’m flying a plane that doesn’t have outlets.

Related: This international travel necessity is the secret to a better domestic flight

I also take my AirPods Pro with me on all trips. I opt for my Bose QC700’s for longer flights though — they have better battery life and I find that over-the-ear headphones are more comfortable on long flights.

Oh, and I always keep my iPhone nearby. I just upgraded to the 12 Pro Max and am excited to use it on an upcoming trip to Miami.

TPG: What’s your go-to travel outfit, and has it changed at all during the pandemic?

AK: Jeans and a comfortable t-shirt in the warmer months and jeans and a flannel in the cold months. This hasn’t changed.

Before boarding:

TPG: Are you getting to the airport early or with just enough time to spare?

AK: I almost always arrive early. I love the feeling of being in an airport, even if it’s wandering around the terminal aimlessly for a couple of hours.

TPG: Has that changed at all?

AK: Fewer lounges are open these days, so I haven’t racked up as many lounge visits this year.

TPG: How do you normally prefer to kill any extra time at the airport?

AK: I try to hang out in an airport lounge when possible. Otherwise, you’ll find me drinking a coffee and either reading a book or working on my laptop near the gate.

TPG: What is your airport food strategy?

AK: Lounge food is my usual choice. Otherwise, I have a soft spot for McDonald’s at the airport.

That said, I’m getting Tortas Frontera if I’m at Chicago-O’Hare (ORD). I stand by my claim that it’s the best airport food in the world.

TPG: What differences have you noticed at the airport since the pandemic began?

AK: There are far fewer people traveling these days, so there’s no wait for security. I’ve also found that lounge amenities are reduced. For example, my visit to the Lufthansa Business Class lounge at Newark (EWR) consisted of drinking three water bottles and an undisclosed number of prepackaged snacks.

Inflight routine:

TPG: What is your strategy for choosing your seat on the plane?

AK: If I’m flying somewhere new, I pick the window seat. Otherwise, I opt for the aisle seat. Being on the taller side, I’ve found that the aisle is usually more comfortable (except for the time I was hit in the kneecap with a drink cart — ow!).

Related: 7 tips for picking the perfect airplane seat every time

TPG: Were you able to work or relax during the flight?

AK: Yes! I scored an upgrade on both legs of my last trip, so it was easy to get work done and even doze off for a bit before landing in New York.

TPG: Do you eat or drink on the plane? Has that changed in any way?

AK: Yes, I generally indulge in the free snacks and airplane meal, if offered. That hasn’t changed.

TPG: Have you noticed any changes in in-flight service?

AK: Domestically? Yes. Every time I’ve flown, I’ve been completely underwhelmed by in-flight service. Short-haul flights have barely any service in my experience, which is fine since I’m generally scoring free upgrades. That said, the price for actual paid first class should be adjusted accordingly.

Related: How to ensure an upgrade on your next flight

Internationally, however, it was business as usual. I flew Swiss business class to Europe in September and was blown away by how “normal” everything felt. There was full food and drink service — even the pre-departure beverage was offered.

 

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Everything else:

TPG: Overall, did you still enjoy traveling during the pandemic?

AK: If anything, I enjoyed it more after not traveling between February and June. I find that little travel annoyances bug me less and that I’m just happy to be in the sky. That said, I look forward to the day when a KN95 mask isn’t glued to my face on a long flight.

TPG: How much traveling have you done since the pandemic began?

AK: I’ve flown 12 segments since the start of the pandemic. Here’s a look:

WN – LGA-MDW
DL – ORD-LGA
DL – ORD-JFK (returning from helping a friend move back to Chicago)
AA – CHO-CLT-JFK (took Amtrak from New York to Charlottesville)
LX – EWR-JFK-PRG
OS – PRG-VIE-EWR
B6 – EWR-AUS
UA – AUS-IAH-EWR

 

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A post shared by Andrew Kunesh (@akunesh)

TPG: Any travel pearls of wisdom or hacks for flying right now?

AK: Be nice to the flight crew. They’re putting themselves at risk to keep the world moving through the pandemic.

Also: Get out there and take a trip. The travel industry needs your business now more than ever, so if you’re comfortable getting on a plane, hit up a national park or visit that new city you’ve dreamed about. Just be sure to take proper precautions to stay safe.

Rapid-fire questions:

Are you Team Ask or Not Ask when it comes to fellow travelers who aren’t wearing a mask? If they’re sitting next to me, I am Team Ask.

Latex gloves — yay or nay? Nay.

Favorite hand sanitizer brand? Whatever’s cheapest, readily available and doesn’t smell like cheap tequila.

Favorite mask brand?  These KN95 masks from AliExpress. They are the only masks that don’t consistently fog up my glasses.

Related: TPG’s 9 favorite face masks and where to buy them

Favorite pandemic travel gear innovation? People actually using the hand sanitizer they buy. I’ll take the smell of rubbing alcohol over a cold any day of the week.

Feature image by Andrew Kunesh/TPG.

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