When was the last time you tried something for the first time? Since March 2020, I've had several life firsts because myself, along with the rest of the world, have been sequestered away from others in order to stop the spread of a deadly virus. It has been a surreal ongoing experience and as our respective states "open" up, there will be a whole new world awaiting us. Literally. From ordering takeout, shopping for essential household items, or merely taking a walk in a park where you may encounter others has been a different experience and constructive effort to keep myself and others around me safe. That includes travel by plane. I understand this is not a necessity or priority for many people during this time but I'm sharing my recent experience to ease fears and share tips on travel by plane that will keep you, fellow passengers, and staff/crew safe and get you safely to your destination in more ways than one!
Girl, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, where are you going?!
I am very close to my family yet live relatively far from my immediate family who mainly live in the lower Southern states. At the top of the year, I was starting wedding planning with the expectation that I would be seeing a lot of my family throughout the year as a result. At the start of the quarantine, I knew I probably wouldn't see my family (in person) in a long time as we all prepared to keep each other safe by not visiting or connecting physically until we all felt safe to do so (even more so than what government protocols have allowed). My younger sister lives closest to me in North Carolina and has been alone away from family for months before and after the pandemic so she and I agreed upon the ease of restrictions and plans to maintain social distance that I would visit her for some simple sisterly connection. I was not prepared for a long road trip by myself so I decided to fly.
I booked a ticket with American Airlines and the process was fairly seamless and not much different than pre-Covid-19 travel. Along with questions about your baggage and any items not fit for travel, there is a short questionnaire about your current health status and any contact with person(s) having been diagnosed with Covid-19. With any airline, be sure to check their website for Covid-19 related instructions as well as to be aware of how the airline and airport you are flying from are preparing to keep passengers and crew safe as we travel.
As an aside, check the state/local Covid-19 requirements as not all states may be at the same level of re-opening as your own. Regardless, WEAR YOUR MASK! Period.
I am a traveler that values comfort but also likes to look stylish while traveling but I mostly focused on comfort for this trip. I simply wore my mask, latex gloves, jeans, easy slip-on sneakers, and a long sleeve t-shirt (yes, even in the summer heat). This allowed for the majority of my skin to be covered, an easy walk through security only removing my sneakers, and a protection against the cooler air on the plane. Call me crazy but with so much misinformation about the spread of Covid-19, I wanted as little as possible of my skin touching any surfaces within the airport or on the plane.
I carried in my carry-on tote:
1. a pair of latex gloves (for if you absolutely must touch a surface - try not to cross touch surfaces using the gloves and use hand sanitizer on your gloves if you must do so)
2. an extra disposable mask (If you're anything like me and constantly misplacing masks)
3. my cloth mask
4. some newspaper (to place at the bottom of the security for any personal items as well as on the floor of the plane where you have to place your personal carry-on item)
5. a seat protector (here or just simply cut a regular sized trash bag the long way and use that!)
6. hand sanitizer (I use an easy spray option called Still that you can order by contacting here)
7. sanitizing wipes (for the armrests, seat buckle, and any other surface you may touch on the plane - if you don't have a seat protector just use a wipe to clean your seat)
Yes, it was lot but it gave me peace of mind knowing that I may be able to control what surfaces my hands and body touched and providing some protection between.
I'm sure traveling with a mask or other such protective items will be new for you so I suggest traveling with not only whatever printed masks you have for style as well as:
1. extra mask filters
2. disposable masks and gloves
3. an extra seat protector (for the return trip)
Airport Arrival and Security
Pre-Covid-19, I normally travelled from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport because it is closest to my home in Alexandria (like 15 minutes away) so I normally do not have traffic concerns and even approaching the airport the traffic was minimal. There were options for contactless ticket, arrival, and baggage assistance and to eliminate as much contact as possible, I chose the mobile boarding pass option (Covid-19 or not, your cellphone holds tons of germs so also be sure to clean the front and back often!).
Most likely there will be our now common social distancing stickers on the floor in the security line. While the TSA agent took my identification with gloved hands, using the mobile boarding pass, I was able to scan my own ticket. The security process was easy for me and I was actually able to get through quicker because of less travelers going through the checkpoint.
On the Plane
American Airlines has implemented social distancing seating in which they seat passengers in the middle seat of their own row (if the number of passengers allows for this); the crew allowed people traveling together to sit next to each if they chose to do so as well as for passengers to move to empty rows or distanced seats upon the final boarding of the plane. Beverage service was not provided but passengers could ask for beverages individually. Upon deplaning, we were asked to only let the first three rows deplane at a time and so on until your row to minimize crowding in the aisles.
Upon arrival to my destination, my sister and I chose not to hug, I changed out of the long-sleeve t-shirt I wore on the plane to another shirt, wiped down my carry-on luggage, kept my personal belongings in one area of her home, and we maintained social distance (such as binging the Babysitters Club on Netflix on separate sofas :)
Overall, my own personal fears subsided after this trip and I continue to social distance after the trip. Although I do not foresee myself increasing the number of trips by plane during this time, I am glad I have a better understanding of what airplane travel looks like.
Have you traveled by plane since the pandemic or are you waiting until next year to feel more comfortable doing so? Let me know your thoughts below!