2020 has thrown us all for a loop. We all had plans that didn’t work out. We have friends who've had to push back weddings, senior years that were spent with parents instead of friends, and vacations that turned into staycations.
*Disclaimer* We are not here to tell you whether to travel or not. You can make that decision yourself. This blog post is to help you travel in the safest, most efficient way possible. This is for people who can’t miss their best friend’s wedding, a family member's significant birthday, a funeral, or for a family who wouldn’t be able to afford or miss this opportunity to take an affordable vacation.
Check out below if you want to watch our experience as well!
I know a lot of people are still traveling and making the most of the travel bans by seeing more of our own beautiful country, but many are road tripping in the family car or renting RV’s. The more people that I talk to, the more I am finding that people are a bit uncertain whether it's safe to fly during this pandemic.
Since I am an airline employee, I am in airports and airplanes pretty much every day and I hope I can give you some peace of mind and tips and tricks to stay as healthy as possible while traveling. It shouldn’t be as stressful and anxiety ridden as some media outlets have made it seem.
** In August we had to travel for 17 days. We took 12 flights total, stayed in 4 hotel rooms/rental homes, rented a car, and rode on public transportation. This is not saying that we don't acknowledge that there is a pandemic going on, but we also know if you are practicing safe procedures, you can still travel and minimize your chance of contracting Covid-19 and spreading it to your loved ones. **
OUR VIDEO EXPERIENCE
First & Foremost
To start with, I am an airline employee, and have had fellow crew members (a term used for airline employees) be laid off, take pay cuts and/or reduced hours, etc., so just remember to be NICE to the airline employees when traveling. Everyone is trying their best during this difficult time. No one wants to help someone who is rude and demanding. Yelling at an employee about why wearing a mask is unconstitutional doesn’t change the corporate policy. You just end up yelling at someone who is trying to pay their bills. So please, BE KIND.
**If you are feeling unwell or sick, please do not fly or travel. Most airlines offer free cancellations or rebookings.**
Before You Travel
Boost your immune system: Taking vitamins & emergen C is always a great idea before you travel.
What to pack: Hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, a ziplock bag, snacks, refillable water bottle, mask, and any extras ie. headphones, pillow, blanket
(We will talk about all of these in detail)
Limit Number of Touch Points
This should happen from the moment you leave the house. You need to be very aware of all the surfaces that you touch and the ones that you can possibly avoid. I see so many people wear gloves but then touch their faces with the gloves. This completely defeats the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place. So, just be aware of how many things you touch and try not to touch your face (even if you're wearing gloves), if at all possible. Obviously, washing your hands is very important and something everyone should be doing. If you don’t have anywhere to wash your hands nearby, we suggest using hand sanitizer.
Check Travel Restrictions
Domestically speaking, this can vary from state to state. One minute you can fly to a certain state or city, and the next you have to quarantine for 14 days upon your arrival. So, make sure you are aware of the most current restrictions for your destination.
You can check HERE for an updated list of States travel restrictions.
Choose the Right Airline for You
I am fortunate that I work for an airline that is taking safety seriously. My airline is continuing to block off the middle seats (officially) until Oct 15, but I think that will be extended. Airlines that are officially blocking off seats are Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, Jetblue, United & Southwest. So, if having an empty seat next to you is important, I would recommend these airlines. I have heard stories of other airlines such as American, Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier, etc. having full flights with no social distancing procedures in place (more on that later). I have linked each airlines pandemic info. All you have to do is click the airline for more information.
I don’t know all of the policies for every airline, but I do know that a lot of the policies have changed (and are continuing to change) in order to keep customers safe during this time. If you are nice and talk to the ticket or gate agent and ask if there is an empty row or a possibility of moving to seat with no one sitting next to you, many crew members will accommodate your request. I know myself and my fellow crew members always do what we can to assist customers and help make them feel as safe as possible. I have read that some airlines will rebook you (free of charge) to change to another flight that has fewer people on it.
A lot of airlines have implemented extra cleaning procedures for their planes, special HEPA air filters, fogging disinfection treatments, surface cleanings in the cabin after every flight, etc. Honestly, I have never seen airplanes cleaner. It should give you some peace of mind knowing that most airlines are doing these things for the health of their crew members and customers.
We as airline employees are required to wear a mask at all times. Most airports and airlines require a mask to travel. That means that from the moment you step into the departure you should have your mask on and keep it on during security, the boarding process, the flight (unless you are eating or drinking), deplaning, baggage pickup, and everything in between. You shouldn't remove your mask until you step outside of your destination airport, so be prepared for that. If you have a medical condition that doesn't allow you wear a face covering, some airlines will accommodate that special need as long as you can provide a doctors note saying as much. But again, be nice... it goes a LONG way.
Some airlines have a reputation of having more full flights than others. You have to understand, if you are flying on a smaller plane with less seats, its harder for them to block seats, especially if it is a 2x2 configuration. And with fewer planes in service and less flights being offered due to Covid-19, you can expect many of the flights to and from smaller cities to be full since they are typically serviced by smaller planes.
**If you are interested in what it was like flying on American, Allegiant and United during the pandemic, watch our Youtube Vlog (out on 9/10) of our experience. Since writing this, we have also flown with Southwest and had a wonderful experience.**
Pack Snacks & Drinks
Since there aren’t a lot of travelers right now, many of the airport restaurants and convenience stores are not open. Your options are a lot more limited than you would think. Besides, buying food and drinks creates more touch points, so I recommend bringing food from home and a refillable water bottle. Some airlines are providing snacks, but not all, so double-check with the airline you are flying with. Remember, you cannot bring drinks through security which is why we suggest bringing a refillable bottle.
Since airports are not as busy as they were pre Covid-19, they have closed parking lots that were once opened. So, make sure you allow plenty of time for finding parking, getting a shuttle, and checking in. It’s no secret that airports are empty compared to this time last year. The airline industry has taken a lot of their planes out of service, and unfortunately, some airlines have had to lay off a lot of people. Fewer people working means that there are less people to check you in which can result in longer waits. Due to the ever changing flight schedules, it isn't uncommon for a flight to get canceled meaning that everyone originally booked on that flight now has to be rebooked on a new flight. This can really mess up the reservation system which eventually works out, but it can add a lot more time to the check in process. Just as a precautionary measure, I recommend arriving and checking in (especially if you are checking your bags) at least an hour and a half before your departure time. I’ve seen a lot of people that have to get rebooked because there was a problem with their reservation and they arrived only 50 minutes before their departure time. Also, a lot of planes are departing as early as 35 minutes before the original departure time because there isn’t as much air traffic and most of the passengers were on board. Moral of the story: Get there early. Better to be safe than sorry.
I always recommend going to a kiosk first when checking in. You can wipe it down with a sanitizing wipe, check-in and grab your boarding pass, or even better, download the airlines app and have your boarding pass on your phone. If there is a problem, then you can always go and talk to a crew member.
As an extra measure of precaution, many of the ticket and gate counters have sneeze guards installed to protect everyone.
Avoid crowds if at all possible. Since the airports are less crowded, it makes doing this easier. Just make sure you are remaining 6ish feet apart from others.
Not a lot has changed during security except you are allowed to take one 12 oz bottle of hand sanitizer that must be taken out of your bag and screened separately. Since there aren't many people traveling, going through security typically isn’t as long as it once was, but that just depends on how many TSA agents are working and how many lines they have open. Always make sure you have your ID and boarding pass out and ready to be viewed. We recommend you wear shoes that can be removed easily and have your laptop and other large electronic devices out etc. And remember to keep your touch points to a minimum.
Make sure you are wearing your mask at all times. Some airlines are boarding via rows (back to the front) other by zones etc. Just remember to give the person in front of you plenty of space while boarding. I would recommend to have your boarding pass on your cell phone and scan it yourself (one less touchpoint). If you need more time to board just talk with the crew member before boarding and they should assist you by allowing you to board first.
On the Plane
Always say hello to your crew... It's part of that whole "Be nice" thing we talked about earlier. Some airlines will hand out sanitizing wipes but it is inconsistent which is why I recommend bringing your own. When you get to your seat, use the sanitizing wipes on the seat, arm rests, the seat back pocket, the back of the seat in front of you, the tray table, and if you are in a window seat the airplane wall. Pretty much anything within arms reach should be wiped down. You can place the used wipes in the ziplock bag you brought, or hold onto them until the flight attendants come by. There will be announcements made about not putting used wipes in the seat back pocket. Hand sanitize after you clean your seat area. Wear your mask at all times unless you are eating or drinking. I suggest using the sanitizing wipes in the restroom as well. Use the wipes to open the door, wipe anything you would touch, and then throw the wipes away. If you want even more protection, I know people who live by these back seat pocket holder and these airplane seat covers.
During these times, airlines have cut back on the products that they offer onboard. That means if you forgot your headphones, you are probably out of luck. So make sure you bring any extra items you may need during your flight.
One great thing about traveling right now is that the deplaning process is so much better than pre pandemic. Many airlines are asking everyone to stay seated when the plane parks and only stand when the door is open and the row in front of you has already left. This isn't consistent with all airlines and really depends on the inflight crew and airline, but this is one pandemic practice that I hope sticks around! I have always hated the chaos that is created by people rushing to get off the plane.
Once you land, head to baggage claim and pick up your bags. I recommend wiping down the handle just for extra safety.
Congratulations, you are at your destination! You just flew during a pandemic! I hope this blog gave you some peace of mind while flying. I promise it isn’t as bad as some people think. This honestly is the cleanest that airports and airplanes have been. There aren’t that many people flying and if you follow these steps, it will definitely help you stay as safe and healthy as possible. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or DM me at @AdventuresofMattandNat on Instagram, or you can email me at AdventuresofMattandNat@gmail.com. I would also love to know if you have any tips or tricks during this time!
Extra Travel Tips
All of these tips can help you stay safe whether you are driving, staying in hotels, or renting vehicles. Limiting what you touch, washing your hands often, and not touching your face are always good procedures to practice.