I flew during the pandemic. The decision to get on a plane wasn’t an easy one, but I will say, I’m happy I did. I went back and forth for days over what was right or wrong. Lots of cancelling and re-booking happened. In the end, this was the right thing to do for ME. As things start to open across the US, people are going to have different opinions over right and wrong. Heck, some of my friends will probably be in quarantine through August, yet some friends I’ve already spent time with. I respect both of these scenarios, and those friends accept mine. Thats what makes a great friendship, right? No one is the same and you’ll never see eye to eye on everything. I’m somewhat in the middle, with the belief that we can’t live our lives in fear of the “what ifs” while also paying close attention to the data. For me, I was dying the see my family. I decided to take a risk. I wanted to be with them for awhile and really needed a break from the four walls of my city apartment. We already plan on flying back to New England for the better half of July, and I don’t believe the risk of flying is any greater now than it will be then. My girlfriends laughed when they found this out, as they kept telling me they knew I’d be the first one they know back in the skies. This is by no means a brag that I got on a plane and was fine, but it is a little PSA to do whats right for YOU and YOUR family during this time. Life is oh so short.
SFO was a complete ghost town. As it should be considering most of the surrounding counties are still on a stay-at-home-order. There was one cafe, and one large Hudson News open. Everyone was wearing a mask except for a few people eating at the cafe. I didn’t check in or use a kiosk, I just did carry-on only and had my boarding pass on my phone. TSA was no different other than the fact I was the only human in the TSA pre-check line. Yes! TSA Pre was still available. I was happy to see that after hearing that was no longer an option at other airports. TSA guards checking IDs did have a plastic glass in front of their stations for protection. They also asked me to remove my mask quickly to see my full face while checking my ID. They no longer check boarding passes at this time, and according to the Today show on 6/11, TSA is allowing recently expired licenses.
IAD was my connecting destination and was COMPLETELY different than SFO. The airport was packed when I was there around 4pm EST. I had to connect to another terminal via a tram, which was also packed. No social distancing, and very little people with masks. I’d say 50% of the people I saw did not have a mask on. Once I got to the gate, I stood in the corner as far away from other humans as possible. Ha!
Other than the agents boarding the flight from back to front, which is unusual, nothing else was different. No need to pay for early boarding if thats something you usually do, the boarding positions will not be valid. There was protective glass at the boarding gates to protect gate agents, but those two things are really the only changes to note. If you weren’t at the gate for the front to back boarding, it didn’t really matter. Plenty of people walked past my row after I had boarded.
Boarding was the same at IAD, somewhat of a free for all. I felt way more claustrophobic on this small plane to update NY than I did on the long haul to IAD.
The plane was almost empty. I’d say no more than 25 people were on the large jet. The key to this is not accepting an upgrade if offered and don’t pay to upgrade, which was something I had originally considered thinking first class would be safer (it was full) I had a whole complete row to myself, along with a row behind and in front of me free. I’ll be posting an in-depth guide to choosing a seat and flight route during the pandemic in my next blog post — be sure to look out for it! You will no longer be offered a snack or drink, rather, you’ll be given a little baggie with hand sanitizer, a water bottle, and a snack pack. I didn’t open it as I didn’t want to remove my mask whatsoever. I also didn’t use the plane bathroom or walk around at all.
*Note: I wrote this before I went on my return flight home, and I did choose to upgrade my ticket to first class as the plane was almost completely full (minus middle seats). I was able to upgrade using miles and $. It was well worth it to have the extra space and peace of mind. Don’t expect your usual first class though! On domestic flights, you’ll get an economy snack box and free beverages (in a plastic cup) — both a thing of the past in economy.
All in all, it wasn’t a terrible day and I’d easily hop on another plane going somewhere close, like LA or San Diego. Heading to the east coast was definitely a trek, with the hardest part being the mask on all day. It was suffocating. I have so much respect for those essential workers that have to wear them everyday.
Hope you’re staying healthy & happy 🙂