Emergence: Flying in COVID Times

What a while it has been! Anyone who had previously kept up with our blog will probably understand that we, like many others, are chomping at the bit to travel or take any form of vacation. We get it. It sucks. And you’re not alone in this infinite wait. But while I am growing more and more impatient every day, what draws me back in is the thought of our healthcare workers (Melanie and my sister being two of them!) whose jobs get more and more complicated when the rest of us decide to say “screw it”. So I will throw my two cents in: please wear a mask and live your life, but take some precautions!

A contemplation I hear a lot is whether air travel is a good idea at this point. Some airlines are going about business as usual while others are taking some additional precautions for their customers. After receiving a negative result from a voluntary COVID test,  I decided to test out flying just a few weeks ago for the first time since COVID hit, and took a short flight to and from Atlanta, Georgia. Never would I have thought that I would be writing about something so normal for me as air travel as if it were uncharted territory.

I was pleasantly surprised by my entire trip starting at boarding the plexi-glass divided shuttle from the Columbus parking lot. Upon arrival at the terminal, everything was much emptier than normal because fewer people are traveling. I walked up to the check-in kiosk and came across an employee sanitizing the screens. Through security, every TSA employee had on a mask and a face shield, and once I got to my gate area in the terminal, every other seat was marked off to leave space between passengers. As I had imagined, going through the airport went smoothly and honestly felt safer and cleaner than going to the grocery store. 

Boarding the plane was going to be the true assessment of this flying experience. Stepping from the jetway onto the plane, I was greeted with a personalized bag holding a water bottle, snacks (yes, you get all three options rather than having to choose just one!), and two packets of hand sanitizer for before and after eating. I arrived at my seat to notice cleaner streaks across all of the seat back screens, and once everyone was boarded, the flight attendants passed out hand wipes for everyone to use before starting to touch all of the amenities on the plane. Also, the airline had taken extra precautions to not sell every seat so as to leave more space between passengers. And hey, regardless of COVID, this just means less of a chance for you to end up scrunched between two strangers!

Once in flight, there was minimal interaction from the flight attendants as passengers had already been handed most everything they could need. I never felt crowded on the plane and on the contrary from some surfacing news headlines, from what I could tell, no one on my flight refused to wear their mask or to wear it the correct way! The air on a plane is usually dry, but to me, my flight going and returning seemed to be even dryer. It definitely felt like something was being done to recirculate the air more often. 

Fog in the Foothill Valleys of the Appalachian Valley

I thought my flights went well and never felt unclean or encroached upon by others. As I mentioned, I did a voluntary test prior to my flight leaving Ohio, and I am not a face-toucher, so as long as I made sure to wash my hands well before eating, I felt comfortable doing so. In terms of food, yes, people take their masks off when eating on the plane. I actually felt strange doing so, so I held off on eating and drinking for my one hour long flights. As for food in the airport, I was surprised to see all of the restaurants in the Columbus terminal closed, and I believe this was still due to the State of Ohio’s restrictions on airports. In Atlanta, it seemed that most of the restaurants and food kiosks were open for business, but I would advise that you keep an eye on the person preparing your food to ensure they are wearing a mask over their mouth and nose.

Flying is definitely not for everyone right now. As I started off with, be free enough to live your life, but if you plan to venture from home, be willing to take some slightly inconvenient precautions for the betterment of everyone around you. Domestically, there are not many additional changes to pre-COVID flying with the exception of your mask, a different type of service in the airport and on the plane, and a safety waiver that you must agree to when booking your flight. If you are already starting to look at booking your next international trip, definitely do your research on what destinations are open for travelers from your country. Also keep in mind that some business travel may be allowed, but many countries are still restricting tourists. During my daydream travels and rabbit hole google searches for my next potential destination (which probably isn’t happening anytime soon, but I can appease myself, right?), I have found that almost all international destinations are requiring a negative test result within a few days of your flight and sometimes even within 24 hours of your flight. Because of these requirements, it sounds as though the airports in countries with these regulations are setting up testing sites for you to get screened before going through security. Be sure to give yourself ample time at international airports to complete your test and get your results prior to boarding.  Other countries like Costa Rica are also restricting U.S. tourists from certain states with high infection rates. Overall, be sure to plan thoroughly if you are seriously considering a vacation during these times. 

That’s it for now. It’s great to be back at my keyboard writing for all of you!

-Rebecca

“Precautions are always blamed. When successful they are said to be unnecessary.” -Benjamin Jowett

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