Let’s start this What It’s Like To Fly During The Pandemic post off with a disclosure.
Pete and I flew three months ago. This post is based off that trip. Traveling during the pandemic, especially flying, is not for everyone. We are not judging your decisions either way.
Maybe you don’t want to go anywhere besides your mailbox until we reach herd immunity. And maybe you’ve been flying since airlines reopened. We have friends in both categories, and we respect both sides. And we hope you do too.
We’ve also been on both sides.
When we traveled, we asked friends who had flown before us about the flight and how they felt. After we traveled, people asked us.
So, I figured I would write about our experience.
What It’s Like To Fly During The Pandemic
This is based on our experience. Yours may different. For specifics on a certain airline, be sure to check with that airline before booking your trip.
Drugstore Divas has no association with any airlines and is not responsible if your experience varies from ours.
Whenever I fly, I prefer to check in at the self service check in kiosks. They’re easy enough to use and just give me an extra minute to double check everything.
When we were checking in, we went right to the self service check in kiosks.
Not all of them were available. Some were directing you to use another kiosk. The screens didn’t mention social distancing, but you could tell that was the goal.
As soon as a flier left the kiosk, it was immediately cleaned before another patron could use it.
Everyone we saw at check in, from the custodial staff to the ticketing agents to the passengers, were all wearing masks.
Going through security was the only time that we couldn’t exactly social distance in the way I would have wanted.
There were stickers on the ground designating where you could stand so you were six feet away from the person ahead (and behind) you.
People listened to that, up until you got to the TSA agent who was checking your ticket and ID. At the first airport we were at, we were face to face (masked of course) with the TSA agent. On the way home, we were separated from the TSA agent by plexiglass.
As we went through security, though, it turned into a bottleneck at both airports. People try to stay six feet apart, but people also are trying to take off the shoes and belts and jackets while they load their luggage onto the belt.
Everyone has a mask on, which is great, but this is the only part of the airport experience that made me feel a little uncomfortable.
Waiting at the gate
We flew out on one of the first flights from a small airport. And it was actually really easy to social distance at the gate. I was surprised because we were flying out on a Friday, and I thought the airport would be packed with passengers looking to enjoy a long weekend.
We were actually at four airports during our trip (we had a layover on both legs), and it was really easy to distance at the gates of three of the four airports.
The first portion of our flight home was at a popular airport, and that gate was packed. There wasn’t any way to social distance there. That surprised me too because it was a pre-dawn flight on a Tuesday.
When we landed at a popular airport for our layover, we had a complete gate to ourselves to enjoy the layover. So, it’s the luck of the draw I guess.
On all four of our flights, boarding was regular. There’s just not enough room to stay six feet apart.
I wasn’t too concerned, honestly, because I kept thinking we’d be on top of each other during the flight anyway, so I wasn’t worried that people were really close at boarding and in the jet bridge.
At boarding, though, you scan your own boarding pass. The agent doesn’t, so that was different.
On the flight
As we got onto the first flight, we were handed a bag with a hand sanitizer wipe, a small bottle of water, and a cookie. “It’s Friday the 13th; we had to do something,” a flight attendant told me.
We didn’t get drinks or hand sanitizer on any of the other flights, so if you are used to cart service on flights, there isn’t any.
Air is filtered on an airplane. I’m not the person to explain the mechanics of air circulation and HEPA filters to you, but head over to this How clean is the air on planes? article by National Geographic.
Having this information in the back of my mind really made me feel okay with sitting on the planes, next to strangers who are not in my household, during the flight.
Everyone wore masks the entire time, including the staff.
This was the most impressive part of flying.
You know when you fly, people are usually a little bit antsy, wanting to get off the plane and make sure to get to their connecting flight. And so they get up as soon as the plane lands and try to deplane first.
Not on any of these flights.
Everyone got up, row by row, grabbed their bags out of the overhead bins, and left in a very orderly fashion.
On one of our flights, we sat in the very last row of the plane. So, we were two of the six very last people to leave.
By the time we got up, there were at least eight crew members cleaning the plane, sanitizing it, wiping down the seats. I was so impressed.
In the back of my mind, I knew the planes were cleaned and sanitized. If not, the airlines wouldn’t be operating. But to see it, and to see it with such precious and organization, it definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable.
We didn’t have any checked luggage for two reasons: one, we were only going for five days and two, I wasn’t sure how baggage claim was going to be.
We walked past baggage claim, and it seemed like everyone was social distancing, but I can’t tell you any more about it.
We landed in San Antonio, and I just wanted to take a taxi. We took ride share everywhere else, and I’m sure we could have gotten that from the airport too, but my plan was always to take a cab from the airport to the hotel.
It was just easier for me.
There was a huge taxi line, so we were able to just hop into the first available cab. Everyone was really respectful outside, keeping their distance.
When we were in the taxi, we had our mask on and had a discussion with the driver about masks, sanitizing, and the state of the world. We actually had this exact conversation with every ride share driver during our entire trip. Each one had a mask on the entire time, plus the windows open, and we kept our masks on. We used sanitizer immediately after getting in and out of the cars.
Flying During The Pandemic: Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. You need to wear masks the entire time you’re in the airport and on the airplane.
Here’s a great fact I just found out. You can bring hand sanitizer on the plane in your carry on bag. And it’s not restricted to 3.4 oz. like other liquids are.
Currently, the TSA will allow one liquid hand sanitizer, up to a total of 12 oz., in your carry on bag. This is until further notice. You can read more about that here.
There isn’t any testing at any of the airports we’ve been to. There weren’t any temperature checks, nasal swabs, or any other testing.
We’ve been in five airports since the pandemic (one flight from Wilmington to Texas, with a layover, and a flight from Myrtle Beach to Philadelphia) and there wasn’t any testing in any of those airports.
Those were domestic flights, though. International flights may differ.
Is flying during the pandemic for everyone? Maybe not. But if you do decide to fly, I hope this post gave you all the information you need to decide. If not, please leave a comment and we’ll try to answer your questions as best we can.