What is Flying Like During COVID?

Updated: Jul 13

Oh man. Since the world of travel changed in early March, I have been contemplating how I will handle travel it in my personal life in 2020. Where can we travel to? Is it safe to travel? Am I nervous to fly? Why are businesses so terrible at keeping their customers up to date?


I quarantined for a good 8 weeks from mid-March to mid-May. We decided to take advantage of working from home by working during the week and getting out into nature on the weekend. One of the benefits of working from home has been that we can work from anywhere. I am going to share my experience of flying mid-May and flying mid-July. What are the differences, what are the similarities?


My Thoughts on Flying

I was not nervous to fly at all. However, being that these were the firsts flight since social distancing and mask wearing became a thing, I wasn't sure exactly how SeaTac, Phoenix Sky Harbor and Medford airport would be handling things. Our flight to Phoenix was the first day that SeaTac required a mask in the airport and early on when Alaska Airlines required a mask to be worn in flight. People were complying. Most were CHOOSING to be there so we saw no arguments over wearing a mask. It is just a small price to pay to travel.

TSA

TSA was the same in both May and July. I wore my mask up to the TSA agent. I provided my ID and hovered my digital boarding pass over the scanner. The TSA agent asked me to quickly pull my mask down so he could see my whole face. I think my mask was down for a few seconds.


Note: No changes to the TSA Pre-Check process


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What Was Open at the Airport?

In May: almost nothing was open. There were no places for us to get a drink (boo). That was the same in both Phoenix and Seattle even though Phoenix was a phase ahead at the time. The Hudson News stands were open, Starbucks was open and in Phoenix, Shake Shack was open in our terminal...and they served BEER!


In July: There were still a handful of restaurants still closed in the outlying ends of the terminals. However, most places were open. You can now get a drink in Sea Tac during common business hours and there were plenty of floor stickers to indicate social distancing when waiting in a line.

Direct Flight

Even though Phoenix is only a 3(ish) hour flight there ARE still flights with layovers. I felt more comfortable booking a non-stop flight, both for the convenience and to minimize the amount of time I would have to spend in another destination. Medford is a quick 1 hour flight, which I am all about!

In-Flight

Boarding procedure on Alaska Air was the same in both May and July. They ended up changing how they boarded a majority of passengers.


Here was the order of boarding:

  • People needing a bit extra time / families with children under two

  • Active Duty

  • Elite Status

  • First Class

  • Premium Class

  • Boarding remaining rows from the back forward

The last bullet was the biggest change. This allowed the majority of the plane to have the least amount of contact as possible. On our flight to Phoenix where there were 3 seats on each side, middle seats were being left open. My husband and I shared a row and still chose to social distance from each other! I mean..the extra space was nice...and I had been quarantined with him for over 2 months..it was a nice break! The flight to Medford had two seats on each side. I initially wondered how they were going to handle that, but here is what they did: if you booked with another person, you shared the two seats. If you booked as a solo person, they left the seat next to you open! (Did I mention I LOVE Alaska Air?)

Food and drink service was limited. We were provided small bottled water and a pre-packaged snack. They had no food or drink for purchase including alcohol (another boo!). We were obviously allowed to remove our mask when eating or drinking. This was the same for the flights in May and July.


Note: Early on, I created a "sanitation" kit which includes: Clorox wipes (I packed some in a small sandwich bag), hand sanitizer, lotion (for dry hands after hand washing) and Tylenol. I keep this kit, which I packed into a small cosmetic pouch, in my purse so it comes in handy - especially air travel.


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Ride-Share vs. Car Rental

This one was a no brainer for me. We preferred to rent a car for the week we were there rather than relying on a ride-share to get around. It is one less place to come in contact with another person in close quarters.


Car Rental

We were also slightly inconvenienced when we pre-booked our car rental for Phoenix and showed up to the car rental lot only to find that not only was our rental car company closed for the day, but over half of the other places were as well. It was frustrating as we received no notification that they were closed. Luckily Enterprise saved the day!


A few changes to the normal car rental process:

  • We did not sign anything at the desk

  • When we went outside to meet with the second attendant, they asked us a few questions off an iPad for the rental agreement that you would normally be doing a digital signature for.

  • The only signature I had to do was once on the iPad. They immediately wiped it down after.

On the Ground

In Arizona & Oregon we continued to wear our masks when in grocery stores, public, indoor places, or when we entered a restaurant until we were seated at our seat. This is the same guidelines we are following in Washington.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the experience wasn't bad. I had to get over the fact that I felt judged for flying, but I quickly got over the feeling as soon as it was wheels up. We are all trying to figure out life during and after a pandemic, but I hope this helps to ease your worries.


Have you flown? What changes did you experience? Leave me a comment!


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