Flying During a Pandemic?
June 28, 2020
During the summer of 2020, after thoughtful consideration, I decided to get on a plane to visit family and thought it would be helpful to share my experience.
Please keep in mind that this is just one account by one traveler. With rules and guidelines changing daily and different rules applying to different locations, another person's experience could be quite different from mine. Still, at Travel That Matters, we think it's useful to share what we know from first-hand experience at this moment in time.
Date of travel: June 20, 2020
Departure airport: LAX - LAX COVID-19 Guidelines
Arrival airport: ATL - ATL COVID-19 Guidelines
Airline: Southwest - Southwest COVID-19 Travel Information
I checked the links above to get an idea of what to expect from the airline and each airport.
Since I knew I'd have to wear a mask for several hours, I purchased a mask I hoped would be comfortable for extended wear. Thankfully, the $2 mask I got from Target did the trick! It easily stayed above my nose and under my chin, yet it was loose enough that I could breathe, and it didn't pull on my ears. Finding a well-fitting mask proved to be a fantastic decision that made my experience much more enjoyable.
Getting to the Airport
I traveled with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew, so my mother dropped us off at LAX on Saturday morning. We gave ourselves LOTS of time because we didn't know how busy the airport would be, or how long security would take.
Now, back in normal times, dropping off someone at LAX was a total nightmare. Once you arrived on airport grounds, you could spend an hour sitting in traffic, creeping toward your terminal, wondering if it would be faster to get out of the car and walk.
That was not the case this time. We arrived with zero hassles and no delays.
Checking In and Going Through Security
The airport was super quiet, so check in and security were a breeze. Thanks to Global Entry, I used the TSA PreCheck line, and I was the only one in it.
As promised on the LAX website, hand sanitizer was readily available, so after going through security, I sanitized my hands before heading to the nearest restroom to wash them thoroughly.
Airport Terminal Experience
Per California rules, everyone wore masks and maintained social distance. Most restaurants and shops in the terminal were closed, so food and beverage options were limited, but you could buy snacks and drinks to bring on the plane.
Boarding the Plane
In accordance with Southwest's typical procedure, each passenger had a unique boarding number. Except, instead of having us line up in large groups, as they did in the past, they boarded us in groups of 10. This allowed everyone to remain socially distant while boarding.
In addition, they announced that our particular plane, which normally seats 175 passengers, was limited to 114 people, and they instructed us to keep the middle seats open.
Because Southwest has no pre-assigned seating, they reminded us several times to choose only aisle or window seats. (Those traveling as a family could opt to use the middle seat.)
During the Flight
We had to wear our masks the entire flight, except when eating or drinking.
The flight attendants handed out small snack bags and pre-poured cups of water twice during the 4.5-hour flight, but no other food or beverages were available.
Other than that, the flight experience was pretty normal.
Arrival in a Different State
When we arrived in Atlanta, the airport seemed busier than LAX, but not as busy as usual. For example, only two baggage carousels (out of eight in the North Terminal area) were operating, and only one other flight had come in close to our arrival time.
Also masks were not mandatory, so lots of people were not wearing them. I also noticed that ATL had fewer hand sanitizer stations than LAX.
All-in-all, the entire experience was easy and uneventful ... and it sure was great to have that guaranteed open middle seat!
I'll be curious to see how my return flight to Los Angeles goes next week. ✈️
UPDATE: On my return flight, my experience was tainted a tiny bit. We decided not to post the update here on our blog, but we did share it with our subscribers.