One of our favorite things to do is travel. During this pandemic, our travel has been extremely limited. We have had 3 planned trips canceled due to travel restrictions around the world. Things are starting to lighten up a bit and some travel is available. Though much of my life has looked more normal than some others over the last few months, I have not flown on an airplane since coming back from Argentina in February. We have stayed in hotels a couple of times, but air travel during a pandemic is a new experience.
Our son is stationed in California with the Navy and there are still some travel bans in place for military personnel. Since he could not come to us, we decided to go visit him for a few days. We had hoped it would be a family trip, but the group finally whittled down to four of us. Barbara and I and two of the grandkids are making the cross country venture.
I have read stories and have seen posts of empty airports and empty planes. Planes were grounded and flights were limited. A few people had complained about airlines packing planes too full, but for the most part, I was hearing that airlines were trying to keep middle seats empty. We are fortunate because Norfolk to San Diego is a popular route for military personnel so we could get a flight. We used points for 3 tickets and the one ticket we paid for was only $178 round trip. That is a great deal. Anyway, I thought I would share what I saw and experienced.
Masks, Masks and More Masks
Most airlines are requiring you to wear masks on the airplane. They were not required in the airport. But even upon arrival at the airport, 95% of people already had their masks on. I am used to seeing masks when I travel. It has been common for people from Asia to wear masks for years. A pressurized cabin and recirculating air seem like a place where masks might be a good idea, even though I still saw a lot of chin straps.
Not Many Planes
Usually, there are planes at every gate, but very few gates were being used and there was very little airplane traffic. When we left the gate, we taxied straight to the runway and took off. No waiting in line on the tarmac. It is unusual to be at a busy airport and see so few planes.
Not Much Was Open In The Terminal
The majority of the stores and restaurants in the terminal were closed. When we went through BWI, only one restaurant was serving food in the entire terminal. Airport terminals tend to be bustling areas of commerce. Not right now.
We were flying Southwest so it is not like we expected meal service, but what they did offer was limited. You received an unopened can of water and a bag of snacks. No coffee. No soda. No ice. No open cups. Barebones service to keep contact at a minimum.
Southwest does not have assigned seats so leaving the middle seat open is up to you. However, they are only booking their flights to 60% capacity so there is no reason for someone to sit in the middle seat. The four of us had six seats to ourselves. I would pay extra for that on most flights anyways.
Some Social Distancing
There was no social distancing going on at security. Everyone stood as close as they could get. But in most other places in the terminal people kept their distance. That made lines look longer than they were. For example, out of Hudson News the line went across the hall, but it was only 6 people.
The Airline Employees Are Champions
Airline employees have had to change so many of the things they normally do. From ticket agents to gate clerks to stewardesses, so much has changed and they are dealing with a group of people who are doing something for the first time. Every single airplane employee I came in contact with had a great attitude. Even the TSA agents had a good attitude. It made an unusual experience a little better. We were also traveling on Vandin’s birthday and they went out of the way to make him feel special
Some People Don’t Care
This is not new, but it is worth mentioning. The lady behind us had a small child that wasn’t required to wear a mask. I am fine with that. But she was letting the little child play with the seatback safety card which is something you should probably not touch anyway. The child proceeded to lick the seatback card for the next 30 minutes. Pandemic or not, do not put anything from the seatback pocket in your mouth. Ever!
I am writing this somewhere across the Midwest. A few more hours to get there. I just thought I would bring you along on the journey so you would know what to expect when you head back out.