Recent Flying Experience
Has anyone else been flying recently? I did a domestic round-trip in early June, and a second round-trip about a week ago. Both trips were to and from small city airports connecting through hubs. Cost of the flights were cheap, and ticket changes (if needed) were free. American Airlines...
All but one of the legs were on Embraer regional jets. The planes were half to three-quarters full. Mask compliance was good. Passenger seat spacing was hit and miss, with no obvious software efforts to auto-separate non-family passengers as much as possible. Flight attendants were more open than usual for people self-moving once they finished their headcounts. No beverage or food service in any class. Even in sweltering summer, the planes were colder than usual because they are blasting the air for COVID defense. Upon arrival flight attendants ask people to stay seated till their row is next to de-plane but about half of the passengers get antsy and stand up and get their stuff from the bins as usual. Each leg of these trips has taken off right on time and arrived early—taxi time and time waiting in an airplane take-off line were both low because of fewer overall flights. No waits for ground crew support either.
Even with so few fliers TSA was very cautious and slow when I flew in June, but pretty much back to their normal good speed last week. I don’t check a bag, but ticketing and bag drop queues had no lines in the airports I use. Most airport terminal businesses were closed when I flew in early June (sprawling Philadelphia was a spooky ghost town), but except for sit-down restaurants, many businesses were open last week. Mask compliance and social distancing was much less in the hub airports, especially Charlotte. The airline clubs were all closed when I flew in early June, but it looked like about half were at least partially open last week.
I’m not recommending leisure flying at this time, but I never felt unsafe. My airport terminal experience is essentially touch-less and I loitered well away from others till it was time to board. Airline club status almost always gets us free domestic first-class upgrades, which also allow for the social distancing perk of early on and early off. I make sure my seat is as isolated as it can be by watching (and switching if need be) the seat map on my phone right up until boarding. I wipe down the area I sit, and always wear a mask. I keep the air ducts open. I carry eye protection if I feel I need it because of a passenger coughing or something. Finally, if at all possible, I stay out of the airplane bathrooms.
When I got back home (northern NY) last week I had to accept State mandated quarantine for 14 days because the Midwest State I came from (where we have a second home) was suddenly added to the bad-COVID list. The airline gate agent in the hub airport we departed from distributed forms that everyone traveling to NY had to complete and submit upon arrival. Online completion via phone is a preferred option, and you just show the authorities who meet the plane a confirmation email from the State that proves the form was done online. The State passed my travel information to the county health department where we live, and one of the nurses called and interviewed me the day after I got home. In addition to that interview, I also get a daily text from the county asking how I feel. If I don’t answer the text then they follow-up, and there are penalties for quarantine non-compliance. The county is offering me a COVID test on the 11th day of the quarantine and if I pass then I think their tracking of me will end early (test results come fast up here). I might have deferred the trip had I known about the quarantine in advance, but I understand the need for it, and it hasn’t been that much of a problem for us (we live on a large acreage with lots of outside stuff to keep me occupied and happy).
Again, I’m not recommend flying right now unless you have to physically be someplace far enough away that driving (with its own set of risks) isn’t a strong option. And a final thought is how sad it was to experience the usually bustling A terminal In Philadelphia when almost no international flights are coming or going. I walked the entire international terminal again last week (feeling nostalgic) and saw just 2 humans doing janitorial tasks in what has always been an extra prime people-watching zone. Unfortunately, I think international leisure travel for most of us is still a long way off.