So, I did a thing. After quarantining at home for almost four months- including homeschooling our twin two-year-old boys and working my full time job- this mama’s patience and sanity was wearing thin. I desperately needed some me time and the opportunity to hang with folks who know how to wipe their own butts, hahaha! So I booked a flight to Atlanta to visit one of my girlfriends. Below encompass my 6 simple tips on flying during COVID-19, along with a bit of insight into my experience.
Before I get started, let me say that I’m not necessarily encouraging everyone to fly. However, I’m not naive to believe that there aren’t people who are flying- either for personal or professional reasons. Therefore, I wanted to “test the water” myself and develop a few tips to share.
6 Tips On Taking Flights During COVID-19:
1. Choose Your Airline Wisely
This is NOT the time to choose an airline solely on price. For me, safety protocols- i.e. mask enforcement, low plane occupancy, middle rows staying open, etc. are non-negotiable. I refuse to share elbow space with a stranger while Ms. Rona is still trying to rule the world.
Click the link here to find tips on finding air travel.
FREE Tips and Tutorials On Catching Flight Deals
included in your FREE travel planning toolkit when subscribing
Personally, I was NOT open to taking any airline but Delta Airlines as they appeared to have some of the best safety protocols (and I’m Platinum Medallion so I had faith they’d take care of me.) A few days before the flight I received communication from Delta that masks are required starting at check-in, along with other guidelines. Despite their proactive communication, I must admit that when the day came to fly I was a bit apprehensive as there was some doubt that the flight crew would actually follow the safety guidelines.
The Flight Experience
To my surprise, the actual flying experience was beyond pleasant. The plane occupation was less than 50%, leaving all middle rows open unless the individuals were traveling as a party. And this wasn’t “good luck.” When I called the airline the day before my flight, I was informed that my outbound flight was sold out but it’s actual plane occupancy was around 40% (65 occupied seats out of the 160 available seats.)
In addition, instead of boarding by zone, the back of the plane boarded first. To help maintain social distance, they had signs along the jet-bridge to remind passengers to maintain at least six feet distance. Similarly, they did not offer food service. When boarding the plane, the flight attendants were passing out snack bags filled with water and two snacks. They also provide purell wipes, both in the snack bag and individually when boarding.
Normally, once the plane has landed and is securely at the jet bridge, all the passengers stand in a rush to deplane. However, on my outbound flight, the deplaning process was different. The flight crew asked the passengers not to stand until the row before had gathered their belongings. This worked beautifully! Unfortunately, on my return flight this procedure was not followed. Luckily, only a few of the passengers stood immediately upon arrival.
2. Take A Direct Flight
If possible, take a direct flight. Direct flights help minimize the number of people that you are exposed to.
Since this was my first flying experience during COVID-19 and the goal was just to “test the water” and get away for an extended weekend, I was willing to go anywhere Delta flew directly from New Orleans. To my surprise, my only option was Atlanta. Personally, this wasn’t an horrible option as it’s a short flight to visit one of my really good friends.
Once arriving at the airport, it was pretty shocking to see how empty it was and how few flights there were. Upon my departure from New Orleans, my flight was the only one in the entire terminal. Similarly, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, the world’s busiest airport by passengers traffic since 1998, only had enough flights to occupy four of the twelve screens that outline their arrival and departure flights.
3. Sit In A Window Seat
Similar to taking a direct flight, window seats offer you the opportunity to minimize the number of people that you are in close proximity to. You can sit in your seat and only be concerned about the potential people in your row, in front, and/or behind you. When you sit in the aisle seat you are in pretty close proximity to the folks that have to use the bathroom and/or decide they must walk the aisle of the plane during a pandemic.
Lucky for me, I’ve always been a window seat gal. I love cuddling up to the windows & enjoying the beautiful view. So when Delta automatically sat me at a window seat, I leaped for joy.
What really made my heart happy was when the boarding door had shut and I realized that I was the only person in my row. Normally, I would stretch out and make myself really comfortable. However, this time I cuddled up in my self-sanitized window seat and was grateful not to have to worry about others next to me.
Pro Tip: Try to sit at a bulkhead seat, the row immediately behind the bulkhead (wall) separating first class from coach. In addition to the bulkhead being a barrier between the folks in front of you, you get more legroom (space from others).
4. Go Digital
You should have as many of your travel documents- i.e. boarding passes, license, etc. on your phone as possible. When going digital, you don’t have to ‘exchange’ anything with another person.
It’s a must that you download the app of the airline you will be traveling. There, you will be able to get access to your boarding pass, digitally. With digital documents, TSA and gate attendants do not touch your phone. They allow you to place your phone to the scanner- avoiding exchange of your phone or documents.
Similarly, Louisiana is one of the dozen or so states that offer an app, LA Wallet, which stores your state driver’s license on your phone. You are able to scan your license’s bar-code and easily see the birth date and picture from a distance, eliminating the need to exchange your phone with others. Check to see if your state has a digital driver’s license.
Although I did not exchange my phone with anyone during the trip, I made sure to clean my phone throughout my journey. Simply, turn your phone off, remove it from the case, and wipe it down with an alcohol wipe.
By the way, thoses with CLEAR, they’re no longer using your fingerprints for identification. They are using your iris. You simply have to look into the screen and it will identify you. So again, a touch-less way to get through TSA.
5. Bring Your Mask, Hand Sanitizer, and Surface Disinfectant
As I previously mentioned, a few days before the flight Delta sent communication that masks will be required, starting at check-in. I personally didn’t check luggage as I was only going to be gone for an extended weekend and I wanted to avoid as many interactions with others as possible. Therefore, I’m not sure if they enforced the mask requirement at check-in.
What I do know is that you must wear a mask in order to get through TSA and to board the flight. There were people who took off their masks while in the terminal, but it appeared that everyone kept their masks on while on the plane (thank goodness!)
Similarly, out of an abundance of caution, I was sure to keep my hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes handy. After every interaction with others I was sure to sanitize my hands. You can also find hand-sanitizing stations throughout the airport as well as the airline providing Purell when boarding the plane. Consequently, when I arrived at my seat on the plane, I wiped down my area- including seat, arm rests, seat belt, etc. I believe that Delta cleaned the seats thoroughly, but hey, an extra cleaning can’t hurt, right?
6. Self Quarantine or Get A COVID-19 Test
There is a debate if you should get a COVID test before or after your travel. It’d be great if we could do both. But with the limited quantity of tests, is that the right thing to do? I think the answer to that is personal. Personally, I chose to take a test upon my return home as I attempted to wear my mask and social distance with others during my trip. However, when I returned home I would be in close proximity with my selected “quarantine circle”- a full time working mama, homeschooling twin two-year-olds can’t do it all by herself for 5 months, sorry- I’m human. Therefore, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t bringing anything back to those in my quarantine circle.
Would I Currently Travel With My Twin Toddlers?
Personally (and sadly) I must say ‘no’. I think adults can maneuver the airport and the flight and be as safe as any other activity outside of the home. Do you know why? Because (some) adults can follow rules and make calculated risks.
Toddlers, at least my toddlers- twin two-year-old boys, can not do either. Therefore, taking them to an airport and taking a fight would be too stressful, and potentially unsafe. My toddlers touch and lick EVERYTHING! It would literally be a fight for me to micromanage every one of their actions, making sure they don’t touch anything and/or sanitizing their hands when they get something within their grasp.
So unfortunately, I will NOT be flying during COVID-19 with my little ones. However, let this mama get some time to herself. I’m on the first thing smoking- with my mask, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant in tow.