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What it's like to fly now

My trip home from Maui to Massachusetts took me to three airports and two car rental places. We flew Delta and rented from Hertz.

At the OGG airport in Maui, the tram from the car rental area to the terminal was not in use, so we had to walk. Check-in was also quite different from usual. There were a cadre of National Guard troops taking traveler's temperatures and questioning selected people (not us). At security, we were told NOT to take out computers and liquids and to use as few bins as possible.

On all our flights, Delta boarded first class passengers first and then anyone needing extra help or extra time. Then they boarded by seat row from the back of the plane first. This was so much more efficient than usual that I wish they'd always do that. The flight from LAX to ATL was overbooked by 5 people at Delta's 60% capacity level and they offered $500 to people to delay themselves for that. Middle seats were empty on all the flights.

Mask wearing was mandatory in Maui, and compliance near universal. At the other airports (LAX and ATL), at least 20% of the people sitting around or walking around - including workers like cleaners! - were not wearing masks. At the ATL airport, the announcements said only "Some airlines are requiring masks." While waiting around for the next flight, we changed seats often to avoid whole families or couples nearby who were not wearing masks.

At the Maui airport, no concession stands were open. In LAX, only Starbucks and Jersey Mike's were open for food at our terminal.

On our first flight, we received a little packet of Purell sanitizer on boarding the plane, and no food or drink at all for the five-hour flight. On each of the LAX-ATL and ATL-BDL flights we received a ZIplock bag with bottled water and two small snacks. The pilots did not come out of the cockpit to say good bye as they usually do when we got off each of the planes, but the flight attendants were there.

As for car renting, both of our rentals were from Hertz. In Maui, they asked me to prove that I had been in Hawaii for more than 14 days. I was not expecting that question, but luckily I was able to dig out my flight documents from January. When I asked why I hadn't been warned in advance about this requirement, the worker told me, "The governor changes the rules day by day," which is true.

In Connecticut there were big signs about if you came from such and such a state (about 7 of them), you would have to quarantine for 14 days, but the rental clerk did not ask where we came from, and it didn't seem like there was any mechanism for enforcing this.

At both car rental places, in Maui and in Connecticut, Hertz put a "we sanitized your car" seal across the outside of the driver's door, which made me feel comfortable breaking the seal and getting in without dousing the whole car interior in sanitizer.

All in all, I had been dreading this as a dangerous trip, but it felt not so bad. We'll know in about a week if we made it through without getting infected with the virus!

[Added later for the judgmental commenters] This was not a pleasure trip. We had been in Hawaii when the Coronavirus shutdown hit and decided it would be safer there than back East, which was the correct decision. We are not flying or even driving anywhere for pleasure these days, and I did not post this to encourage anyone to fly for a pleasure trip.

Posted by
6075 posts

We've been on a couple of flights in the past where they loaded the plane from back to front, and you're right; it's much more efficient.

Posted by
2788 posts

I just flew back to Seattle from Hawaii on a Hawaiian Airlines plane (a 330) that had only 50 passengers onboard. Masks were required when entering the Honolulu airport, waiting for boarding, and supposedly on the plane. I did see at least one person without mask but no flight attendants said anything to that person. We were served a packet of junk treats early during the flight and then later a pastry type thing containing BBQ beef and cheese that I was able to only eat half of it. I had brought several clift bars but forgot all about them. They also gave us a bottle of water. Later during the flight, while I was standing up next to a bathroom doing a little exercise, I asked a flight attendant if they had anything else to drink besides water and he said that they had pop so I got a can of pop. Landing in Seattle at midnight I went down to baggage claim and there were very few people in the airport or at baggage claim. It took very little time to get my suitcase probable due to the few items checked in. My wife picked me up out at the curb for a 30 minute ride home. I am now quarantined for 14 days here in Seattle not because I came from Hawaii or have any symptoms but because I just spent 6 hours in an airplane with 49 other folks who may have been sick. The quarantine does not seem unusual since I had just spent 2 months quarantined in Hawaii. I would have stayed in Hawaii where their virus rates are so much lower than Washington state except for the requirement that I return to my home medical coverage area within 6 months of leaving which is on July 1st. 18 dead in Hawaii and 1,320 dead in Washington.

Posted by
7161 posts

I remember flying back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the airlines boarded the tourist class starting with those in the rear of the aircraft. Back then, people brought less carryon luggage. Filling up the aircraft was way faster than it is done today.

Posted by
3499 posts

Glad it went relatively uneventful. It would be nice if the airlines told you when there would be no food or drinks for longer flights so you can prepare, I guess you are just supposed to know that.

The pilots did not come out of the cockpit to say good bye as they usually do when we got off

They do that? I have seen pilots standing in the forward galley at both loading and unloading times on the airlines I fly, but it is not a consistent thing and they are mostly getting coffee and not really interacting with the passengers.

Posted by
381 posts

The pilots did not come out of the cockpit to say good bye as they usually do when we got off

They do that?

For sure. In fact, I thought that was a universal thing these days. I always appreciate being able to look them in the eye and thank the pilots. I usually fly Delta, but I have also flown Swissair, Air Canada, United, El Al, Qantas and Hawaiian Air in recent years, and it seems to me I always see the pilots at the cockpit door when we disembark.

Posted by
10320 posts

We flew AA on 6/29, PHX-PHL and then a CRJ to a smaller airport. Flights were all full. We had a two hour drive to airport and could only get coffee at PHX. . Boarding was OK. Deplaning was chaotic. No one followed the instructions to wait until the row in front of you was walking off the aircraft, Bedlam. The fight attendants should stand by the row allowed to get off like ushers do at church services for weddings, Christmas, Easter. Simple.
Every passenger was given a small paper bag with a very small bottle of water, and a minuscule snack. A mini hand sanitizer packet too which might clean half of one hand.
In both airports everyone wore masks.
I would only fly again if absolutely necessary until this pandemic is under control. We shipped luggage ahead which we often do.

Posted by
1309 posts

Random pre virus observations:
Yes, I thought having at least one person from the cockpit standing at the door to say goodbye was "normal"
George, people bring more carryons now to avoid paying to check

I remember getting an email a couple of yrs ago saying that my flight in 5 days was going to employ an experimental boarding process.... allowing window passengers for the whole plane on 1st, then all of the middle seat passengers, and finally all of aisle seats people. I read the email several times w fear and trepidation. However, when u got to the airport it was boarding as usual. Any one else get that message?

Posted by
9849 posts

We had a couple short SWA flights these last two weeks. Each time we headed directly to the back of the plane where several rows had only one person. The only crowding was at the gate in order to hear the groups of ten passengers at a time called. Waiting area appeared crowded at Baltimore Washington but we waited in an empty ares. Masks required. Middle seats empty. Drove home, put airplane clothes directly into the washing machine, showered. Emptied contents of our carry-ons and left the empty suitcases in the garage. Your do what you gotta do, but real carefully and weighing the risk of each step you take.

Posted by
10320 posts

Similar flight dates , cross country flights, but on AA and our experience was disgraceful!

Posted by
169 posts

Unless it is a medical emergency or death in a family, why are you flying? Stay home, and please listen to the medical experts. If you want to travel in the future, you need to do the right thing NOW.

Posted by
2853 posts

Hear , Hear Susan.
You are absolutely right.

Let's just all keep planning our future travels from the safety of home; while we stay home now to make sure that there WILL be future travels.

"We are all isolating now to make sure that when we can get back together, no one is missing."

Posted by
7046 posts

We'll know in about a week if we made it through without getting
infected with the virus!

The blindspot with this thinking is it ignores that asymptomatic people can infect others unknowingly. I agree with the prior comments...don't put yourself in the chain of propagating this virus by flying all over the place, however comfortably - that's how it spread globally in the first place.

Posted by
4535 posts

I have flown several times in the past 3 months on SWA. They remain committed to limiting cabin capacity to 2/3 (keeping the middle seats empty). They also require masks to board and throughout the flight. My observations:

Early on, in late May and early June, mask wearing was at best only 80%, especially in the airports. I saw people walking around or coming out of the restrooms maskless. That has gotten much better now - nearly 100% from what I have seen. SWA has been boarding in groups of 10, and I haven't noticed any crowding at the date waiting to board. In one case, the flight attendant was holding people from entering the plane until the aisle cleared of people getting settled. People keep their distance waiting in the jet bridge. Service is extremely limited, some water and a bad of snacks. No other choices and they only come around a few times to collect garbage.

The one thing that is still an issue is deplaning. People still jump up and crowd the aisle. I just sit and wait for things to clear up to my seat.

In some cases the flights are pretty empty. In others it seemed the flight was at "capacity." At no time have I sat in a row with more than 2 people.

I personally will not fly AA or United or other airlines willing to fill a plane and with weak mask policies. I am fortunate to have plenty of options and can easily take SWA where I am going. But I feel for those that cannot.

Posted by
1317 posts

My brother-in-law travels from ORD to NYC weekly... he says the front of the planes are pretty well social distance with everyone wearing masks and the back of the plane passengers are seated every other seat with masks. He flies American Airlines mostly but sometimes United. He mentioned that he sees more "airport" workers NOT wearing masks in the last month.

Things he said that surprised him as the result of the "shut down" are - LaGuardia is ahead of schedule with it's renovation. Highways and roads are being completed at faster paces since there are fewer drivers.