I Flew During the COVID-19 Pandemic so You Don’t Have to …but Maybe You’ll Want to After Reading This
That’s right. I did it. I braved the world and flew across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Was I scared? I was a little worried at first. But airlines have really stepped up their game to make your time in the air as comfortable as it can be during these trying times. Here’s how my experience went down.
I was hearing many rumors that flights were being cancelled left and right during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps this was more true in the beginning when restrictions were quickly put on everyone and the world came to a halt. But currently, I find that most flights are not being cancelled. True, there are much fewer airplanes taking to the skies, but their schedules have already been cut down so when you book a flight now, the odds are that you will keep the flight without issue. I arrived to the United Terminal at LAX two and a half hours before my time of departure- just to be safe. I’d rather come early to find much stricter protocols than come late and miss my flight.
At 6am on a Friday, the airport was a ghost town. I’ve never gotten to LAX that quickly before in my life. And there were only 10 people total in the United terminal that I could count when I arrived. I was the only person checking in my bag. In fact, I walked over to the desk, and a very friendly man said, “Good morning, miss! Can I help you with your bag!” before I could even make it half way to the counter. Everyone seemed genuinely kind and exited to see travelers out at the airport. I was the only person in the security line, so my TSA Precheck didn’t really matter much. I repeat- I was THE ONLY person in any security line from TSA precheck down to regular security. That was surreal. Then, as I walked up into the terminal, I found a ghost town. There weren’t even any stores or food locations open. In fact, the only thing open in the terminal was the Hudson News store. This was very unfortunate because the store didn’t sell coffee- not even the bottled ice stuff- and there was not a single place in the terminal where I could find some. Being 6am, I was bummed that I wasn’t able to get my morning cup. But such is life!
(The following is very important to note if you have any type of medical dietary issues: it’s almost impossible to currently get food at the airport. Even worse- they are not serving food on the plane because of COVID-19. So, when I arrived at the airport at 6am and my flight left just before 9am, I wouldn’t arrive in Virginia until 2pm my time/5pm Virginia time. And I wouldn’t have a chance to get food until after that moment of arrival. It was quite a long time to go without eating for me, as I have had hypoglycemia issues in the past, so I had to think ahead and pack cliff bars. So, keep that in mind during your journeys.)
Next, it was boarding time. United was very cautious with their boarding, which I appreciated. You hold your own ticket over the scanner so you don’t need to interact with others, and the boarding was done from the back of the plane to the front to avoid people having to pass each other, which was smart. (Though they still allowed a lot of pre-boarding and first class boarding to be done, which defeated this purpose a bit.) But it still helped. And they continually demanded that you stay 6-feet from the person in front of you while boarding which was a plus. I did notice they were more strict about this in Los Angeles than they were in DC, so the level of cautiousness could change based on your city of departure.
The best part about flying right now is that you aren’t crammed next to anyone. United was flying the larger planes cross country, so I was in a plane that was 7 seats wide. It was a 2-3-2 setup. So, I sat at a window of a 2-seat aisle on the left side of the plane; then the seat next to me was skipped. The two isle seats in the center row were filled, and then the window seat on the other end of the plane was filled. This was great because it skipped every other seat to ensure you were not right up in someone’s business.
(Of course, the safety videos just keep getting weirder and weirder. Why are they making them so strange now-a-days? Do the airlines have a contest for whose video can be the strangest? Are they just bored and wanting to create weird things? Do they think you’ll only pay attention if they show you some really strange videos? The world may never know.)
When you board on United, they provide you with a disinfectant wipe for your seat which was another huge plus in my book. However, they can’t serve food or any open beverages. So you only get cans of sodas or bottles of water. This was unfortunate because I didn’t get my coffee all day thanks to COVID-19. But I appreciate the precaution. They did give small snacks in sealed plastic bags, so that was nice.
And, of course, all passengers and crew MUST wear a mask at all times aboard the flight.
All-in-all, the airports and airlines both are adapting and making this COVID-19 fiasco much easier for travelers one day at a time. I appreciate the care they are taking. Now, it’s up to us as passengers to be responsible here with the tools we are provided. When I left from Los Angeles, everyone was being so cautious to follow the rules and stay 6 feet away. When I left from Washington DC, people were not, and I was getting frustrated. Please, listen to the flight attendants and take heed. They are just trying to protect you.
But, in the end, if you are looking to travel within the US, now is the perfect time. Airports and planes are vacant, spread out, and clean.