Even before a global pandemic, flying was synonymous with getting sick—tight quarters, circulating the same stale air, a coughing seatmate, etc. Enter the coronavirus with rapidly changing transmission information, a high death rate, and a general uneasiness, leaving your house felt like a risk, much less on a plane!
Here we are, over three months into living in a very different world. Some things have gotten back to normal, like seeing friends, eating on patios, going for a run, etc. Other things might be prolonged to come back, or look different when they do, i.e., going to concerts, sporting events, or even shaking hands isn't really a thing anymore. As we start to embrace getting back to "normal," travel and flying seem to be the next big question on everyone's mind. Maybe you have loved ones that are a plane ride away, perhaps you have a once in a lifetime event you don't want to miss, or maybe you just want to go somewhere. Whatever the case may be, there are lots of questions and anxiety surrounding getting back to the friendly skies.
One of our editors recently took a plane trip, and we sat down with her to get the details on flying again.
OOLA: Where did you go, and why?
Ellen P: I had a trip planned since before the pandemic to visit friends and family, and I wasn't going to be taking any public transportation once in my destination. It may sound scary to some, but upstate New York and in the Hudson Valley has mostly gotten the virus under control, so even though the state was a hot-spot, it's now much safer, and the threat in rural areas isn't the same as NYC. I flew from St. Louis (STL) to Newark, NJ (EWR).
OOLA: What precautions did you take personally to feel safe?
Ellen P: I wore a mask, packed a bottle of hand sanitizer and gloves. I never wore the gloves, but did like having the option if I felt I needed them. I washed my hands right after I went through security and also after I got off the plane.
OOLA: What were the airports like?
Ellen P: St. Louis' airport was a literal ghost town! Almost all the restaurants were shut down, no stores open, and no lines for TSA, or to get on the plane. Everywhere I looked, people were cleaning, and almost every person had on a mask. Technology has already made it where you don't have to interact with many people while traveling, so I had an electronic boarding pass. The only person I spoke to was the TSA screener, and he was behind a partition. While on the actual plane, each person had an empty seat next to them, and they boarded the flight by rows back to front. I flew United, so a big shout out to them for handing out cleaning wipes as we boarded the plane, and making sure we had our masks on the entire time. Once I landed in Newark, it was a similar scene as in St. Louis. No restaurants were open, masks on everyone, and everyone was practicing social distancing.
Overall, I felt safer than I ever have flying, from a germ standpoint. At Newark, they even had someone at the bottom of the escalators regularly cleaning the handrails as it moved.
OOLA: Would you consider flying again, or even consider an international flight after your experience?
Ellen P: With flights being so cheap, and these extreme measures in place, I would. I say that as someone without any pre-existing conditions, and I don't live with anyone who's considered high risk. I would wait, as a precautionary measure and not be around my older parents for two weeks after flying. The risks just aren't worth it.
I've now been home a week and am showing no symptoms. I did have a fair amount of anxiety around traveling, and the fear of getting the virus or exposing someone was always on my mind. Even with my good experience, while I would travel solo, my family's vacation will be by car this year because I don't imagine my kids will be as diligent on a plane as I was. Getting a seven-year-old to not touch and explore the world would be a futile task!