My First Time Flying in 15 Months- Flying During COVID

To put things into perspective, normally I fly four or five times in any given year. In 2019, I flew to Hawaii, Peru, Wyoming, and Nebraska. That was a light year because I was able to drive to my half marathon in Delaware, otherwise that would have been another flight. In 2020, I flew just once, to St. Petersburg, Florida in February before the pandemic truly hit and state shutdowns began. Little did I know then that would be the last time I would board an airplane for another 15 months.

I had plans to fly to southern Spain and Portugal in June 2020 that I pushed back to August, only to cancel for good. I also had plans to fly to Yosemite National Park in California in August and that was also cancelled. Oh, and flights to New Mexico, Iowa, and Minnesota were also cancelled during the pandemic. Luckily, the airlines were all generous in their cancellation policies because that was five flights that were all cancelled and otherwise I would have been out of a lot of money.

By the summer of 2020, I had begun to get a bit stir-crazy but flying didn’t seem like a great idea so I took some road trips, first to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee (Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park- Redux) and later in the summer to the coast of North Carolina (Fun in the Sun in the Outer Banks, North Carolina). That August, my daughter started online school and all vacations were put on hold.

With spring break of 2021 approaching and the state of the pandemic starting to improve as more and more people were getting vaccinated, I began searching for safe places to travel to. I had also gotten vaccinated myself, which helped ease my mind. When I would see an article online about state requirements for travel (basically stating if you were required to quarantine upon arrival or not), I would scour the list.

Florida kept looking better and better. They were ahead of the curve when it came to vaccinating their people, had no mandates regarding travel or quarantine upon arrival and I knew I could get a short direct flight there. Finally, flights were dirt cheap. I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, bought my airline tickets with Delta, and hoped for the best, knowing I could easily cancel and get my money back or at least a voucher for a future flight if I had to. Also, I only made reservations at hotels with generous cancellation policies, allowing me to cancel the day before if necessary.

The final couple of weeks before my vacation, I was overly cautious about who I was around. Even though I was vaccinated and my chances of getting COVID was minimal I knew there was still a slight chance and it would have been devastating if that were to happen. Also, my daughter, who isn’t yet 16, isn’t eligible yet to get the vaccine, so she could have gotten sick. She also limited her exposure to other people in the time before our vacation.

Finally the day of our flight to Tampa arrived. My daughter and I were both healthy and excited for some time in sunny Florida. We were also excited to learn we had been bumped-up to comfort+ seats, which are just a step below first class. Bonus!

So what exactly was my flight experience like? I’ll break it down completely here to those that are curious or nervous about flying during the pandemic. First off, the airport was moderately busy, I’d say. Not empty but nowhere near busy either. Since this was during spring break, in a normal year, the airport would have been packed. Everyone at the airport was wearing a mask or face covering of some sort. We only had a short line to go through security, which was no doubt faster because we didn’t have to take off our shoes or take liquids out of our carry-on bags.

Delta was one of the few airlines still blocking off the middle seats on the airplanes at the time of our flight, so the plane still had plenty of empty seats because of that. At no point did anyone take our temperature, either at the airport or any time before boarding the plane, but I did have to answer the usual series of questions about COVID and our general state of health when I checked in for the flight.

The airplane was boarded from back to front to limit exposure and everyone was handed an individually-wrapped wet wipe upon boarding. We were all told we had to keep our masks on unless we were actively eating or drinking. Once we reached altitude, the flight attendants handed out a small plastic bag with a small water bottle, a wet wipe, a bag of Goldfish crackers, a Clif mini-bar, and a napkin. We were supposed to put all of our trash back into that bag and hand it to the flight attendants when they picked up the trash.

Never once did I feel unsafe either at the airport or on the airplane. I felt like everyone was adhering to all of the guidelines, wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet from people not in their household or group, and washing hands or using hand sanitizer/hand wipes. I also know (well, I have read and I guess I assume it’s true) that Delta’s airplanes are being deep-cleaned regularly. The airplane seemed cleaner than ever to me, compared to previous flights, where I would often find trash left behind in the seat from the previous flier.

The return flight from Tampa back home to North Carolina was similar with one tiny exception. The TSA agent in the Tampa airport told us we had to remove our shoes but could leave liquids in our bags. Still, the line for security went quickly and smoothly. Also, a nice bonus was we were upgraded to first class on the flight back home. This was a first for me and I enjoyed the cushy seats and tons of leg room. I’m 5’8″ so I’m always a big squished in economy seats.

As before, everyone in the airport wore a mask, some seats in the airport were blocked off to help with distancing everyone, and hand sanitizer was plentiful and more importantly being used. The middle seats were also blocked off on the airplane, as before. To deal with this in first class, which only had rows of two seats, versus three seats in a row for comfort+ and economy, only people from the same household could sit together in first class.

I realize everyone’s comfort level is different now during the pandemic and some people either are high-risk or have high-risk family members. Some people are also not able to get the vaccine for various reasons and may not want to fly for that reason. By no means am I saying everyone should go on a flight now. As I said in the beginning, I just want to let others who haven’t flown in a long time and are curious know what my personal experience was like. Other people’s experience may of course vary depending on which airports they go to and which airline they fly with.

Have you flown during the pandemic? If so, what was your experience like?

Happy travels!

Donna

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

21 thoughts on “My First Time Flying in 15 Months- Flying During COVID”

  1. I have not flown (in over 2 years 😔), although I know quite a few who have with problems. I’m not sure either one of us is ready for that yet, I have a couple of weeks to go to my second vaccine.

    OTOH, we also haven’t seen my MIL & SIL in over a year. Actually a lot longer for me, the last few times my husband has gone alone. I almost went with him February last year & if I had known what was going to go down I would’ve!

    Thanks for sharing. Although I do know Delta is no longer blocking the middle seat. And a cross country flight is so damn long, although my brother is planning to surprise my mom on Mother’s Day. He lives in CA & hasn’t seen her in over a year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Delta is blocking middle seats until May. I think the airlines are banking on more people being fully vaccinated in time for summer travel and we’ll probably see a huge surge in people flying then. If I had a direct route even if it was a long flight that would make the decision easier for me. Honestly, I was more concerned about the airports than the airplanes themselves. The airplanes really are cleaned and disinfected much more than ever before and they all have HEPA air filters. Still, I know it’s not an easy decision for some people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No direct flights. Usually a long layover somewhere. I have my second vaccine in a couple of weeks, so won’t have full immunity til May. When my brother comes, we might finally bury my dad — he passed away 1/20. Actually the car ride for that might bother me more than a plane ride! It’s almost 6 hours in the car & if some of the nieces & nephews come, they’re not vaccinated. One day at a time! Right?

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  2. Ha! Flown?! Today I went to buy some potatoes, just so I could go outside for an hour! I’m soooo jealous about Florida!

    Here in England we are inching slowly, slowly, towards normality – if it goes to plan, we should be ‘free’ again by June 21 – but until then, we’re still very much in lockdown.

    Flying abroad for a holiday is currently illegal and there are also quite strict restrictions on the internal holidays we can take, as well as who can enter the country. Given the highly infectious situation in Europe, I think we’ll be lucky to get away this summer, so instead I’m slowly remodelling the garden to make it a better place to lounge in…

    On the other hand, at least we don’t have to ‘stay local’ anymore and I was able to do a 70-mile bike ride on Saturday, which really helped with the cabin fever!

    It’s interesting to hear how quickly the US now appears to be moving on vaccinations and getting back to something like normal – I was talking to a professor from the MidWest yesterday, who said he and his wife were having their second vaccination soon, while you also say you’ve already been vaccinated.

    I think you’re probably overtaking us in the UK – we were ahead of the game, but I won’t be getting my second Astra Zeneca jab until early June, while supplies seem to be slowing up for people in their 40s and under, who haven’t had their first jab yet.

    Oh well, Patience, Virtue, and all that…!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really feel bad for you Brits. You’ve had such an awful time with this pandemic and then the other strain and the current lockdown. I’m definitely jealous of Florida. It was so nice to be in a place where the majority of people are vaccinated and spend a lot of time outdoors, so they don’t live their lives in fear. Where I am in North Carolina, people are getting vaccinated but many people are still scared to death to do anything outside their house. I worry for the children as well and what it’s doing to their mental health. Best wishes you can get vaccinated soon!

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  3. As you know I few to Florida in February. I had the same experience. I had a great vacation. I felt safe. So glad I went

    As you said everyone feels differently about the pandemic and even in life.

    If you overthink everything you miss out. IMO.

    Happy that you enjoyed the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you, we had lots of flight plans canceled in 2020. we were scheduled to go to Morocco and Portugal ONE week after the shutdown. We rescheduled for September 2020, because surely by then it will be over (we thought). Now we have lots of flight credits to use up. Once we get our 2nd vaccine, we will fly again. Glad you had a good experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, one week. That could have turned out to be much worse, if you would have just gotten there and had to turn around and fly back home. I hope your next flight experience goes well!

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  5. I haven’t been on a plane since December 2019!
    I usually travel a lot for work but not this year.
    Getting my first shot tomorrow! Very excited and I’m sure I will feel a great deal of relief once they put the band-aid on!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is really inspiring! I’m so happy you got to fly again. The last flight I took was in August last year from England to Germany, during a period when the restrictions had been relaxed. I was a bit anxious but focused on following best hygiene practices and allowing the thrill of adventure to keep me in a positive mindset, which I believe helps our immune system function at its best. Your post has put me in the mood to fly again 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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