How I Roll: TPG Senior Aviation Business Reporter Edward Russell

Nov 22, 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 Senior Aviation Business Reporter Edward Russell 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?

NR: I flew to Chicago and back for a piece on United Airlines at the end of October.

TPG: Was the trip for business or pleasure?

NR: Business.

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?

NR: I traveled alone.

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

NR: New travel plans.

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

NR: Visiting family in Colorado.

Pre-departure prep:

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

NR: I try to pack my bag the night before even for a short trip like this one so that I can get up and roll early in the morning.

TPG: Are you purchasing any additional supplies, masks or protective gear for the trip?

NR: I didn’t purchase any additional supplies but did bring several masks for the trip.

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?

NR: I did get a COVID test before I flew, I believe it was the standard PCR nasal test.

Packing strategy:

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

NR: Masks, lots of masks.

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

NR: No.

TPG: What are your carry-on essentials?

NR: My laptop, iPhone, headphones for music, and either my kindle or a book.

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

NR: A button-down and jeans, and it hasn’t changed during the pandemic.

Before boarding:

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

NR: A little bit earlier than I normally would to allow for any extra time at security. Though when I flew I noticed it really wasn’t needed as queues were short and the United Club at Washington National was closed.

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

NR: Either go to the lounge or walk around.

TPG: Has that changed at all?

NR: Yes, if the lounge is closed I just wait at the gate.

TPG: What is your airport food strategy?

NR: I like to buy food from local restaurants if I can. Unfortunately, my favorite local Chicago place — Frontera — is temporarily closed in Concourse B at O’Hare. I also pack snacks for the flight and always bring a water bottle.

Related: 10 airport restaurants so good you won’t want to leave the terminal

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

NR: A lot of restaurants are closed, especially the local ones I like to visit when I travel. Things are quieter with fewer travelers.

Inflight routine:

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

NR: I like window seats for short flights, typically under two hours, and aisles for longer flights.

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

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

NR: Work most of the time. Though on the return we had a weather delay and I read a bit while we waited.

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

NR: I do. It’s changed in the sense that I don’t savor it — more like quickly pull down the mask, take a bite or sip, and then replace my mask.

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

NR: Yes, less service and coffee only on select flights. That said, United gives each traveler a disinfectant wipe when they board. I thought that was a nice touch.

Everything else:

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

NR: Yes, I do enjoy the journey. Though I have concerns about destinations.

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

NR: Three flights, including the day-trip to and from Chicago.

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

NR: Just be sure to wear a mask and be mindful of others. It’s easy to forget how far six feet is as well as begin to crowd fellow travelers in the jetway and waiting to deplane.

Also, leave your expectations of service at home before you go. Airline employees are working the front lines and doing their best to keep everyone safe. And that means service — like food and beverage onboard the plane — isn’t everything we’re used to from before COVID.

Rapid-fire questions:

Are you Team Ask or Not Ask when it comes to fellow travelers who aren’t wearing a mask? Ask if it’s an entire mask, not ask if it’s just below the nose (but move away if I can).

Latex gloves — yay or nay? Nay.

Favorite hand sanitizer brand? Compass Coffee made here in D.C.!

Favorite pandemic travel gear innovation? Not sure yet, I think there are many pandemic travel gear innovations to come.

All images by Edward Russell/TPG.

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