I recently traveled to Ohio for a family funeral (more on attending a Covid funeral in a later post). I flew Delta Airlines both ways. During Covid I've bounced between American, Alaska, Southwest and Delta depending on my destination. I typically fly Delta but for the sake of investigating & sharing the experience, I veered away from my preferred airline so I could understand how the airlines were each handling their air travel & report back. Although I temporarily cheated on my beloved Delta for the sake of investigative travel--I will predominantly always fly Delta when I can. Here's why:
Safety: I felt safe flying Delta. Their signage is excellent in the boarding and gate areas. I always know exactly what to do and what is expected of me.
Middle Seat Always Open: For now, the middle seat is always open. I had assumed this was the same for all airlines but it is not. When I flew American Airlines recently, I booked a window seat the night before which had an open middle seat. Much to my dismay, when I boarded, a very dirty teenage boy was in the middle seat and his mom on the aisle. They were openly and enthusiastically sharing cheesy puffs. They looked delicious but I was petrified. I asked the attendant to move me and she did, without question. However, it is not in American Airlines current policy to leave the middle seat open. So far, Alaska, Southwest and Delta are all leaving the middle seat open and American is not. This may change over time, but for now, my safest and most sanitary bet is Delta.
Snacks & Sanitation: Yes, Snacks! I was not in a special seat and did not pre pay for snacks. When I boarded the flight, they gave each passenger a Purell hand sanitizer wipe. As soon as the flight took off they handed each passenger a plastic bag with pretzels, a Kind Bar and a cute little mini bottle of water inside. The airline gave a second hand sanitizer inside the bag however this time it was gel. My nieces also just flew Delta, not in special seats, back of aircraft and they got the plastic baggie with snacks and sanitation too. The floors and seat pockets were spotless. I was not on the first flight out and I know there were flights in this airplane before me. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the aircraft & even more impressed that they let me know they were cleaning it while I waited.
Boarding Back To Front: I am not always the biggest fan of this because I always bring a carry on and am a creeper when it comes to scavenging the best overhead space for my bag. However, given the circumstances, I had to put my "board first" mentality to the side and accept that it's safer to board this way. The people that sat in the back boarded first. This eliminates the number of times we, as passengers, are interacting with other passengers. It actually made the boarding time smoother and faster. I flew first class on the way home (thank you status upgrade list) and they were only filling First Class to 50% giving even more space between seats. The food service in first class was similar to the food service in the back of the airplane on the way there. I am not sure I would waste my upgrade requests on this again until Covid is over, but, it was nice to be so far apart from other passengers.
Some other things I've noticed while traveling in July and August are:
--Boarding Time--Flights are boarding earlier because of the 6 foot social distancing. Give yourself more time to get to the airport because boarding is taking longer. Less people can stand in line like cows herding into each other and more people are waiting for the person in front to step on the flight allowing that distance. If everyone is there, and boarded, the flights generally take off earlier.
--Face Shields and Masks--Everyone is wearing a mask because it's a requirement and 10% of the travelers I saw were wearing face shields and masks together. I wore a face shield at my husband's request while boarding the flights and in the airports and I wasn't alone. I used the KlearStand Face Shield because it was medical grade, anti fogging, softer and had a pad for the forehead. It is fairly lightweight and easy to pack in my carry on when I was done.
--Wearing a Mask On A flight for more Than an hour--This is tough. I recommend adjusting every 45 minutes if possible. Both recent flights were 4 hours each. I was thankful to have adjustable ear straps and adjustable wire nose. The nose and ears get super uncomfortable after an hour and having these straps and wire reinforcements helped me adjust each time I was in some sort of pain. Go to Amazon and search adjustable ear straps and wire nose face masks. A bunch of good ones will come up.
--Flight Schedule Changes-
Be prepared for schedule changes and cancelled flights. Of the 6 flights I've taken since June, all of them had multiple flight time changes and one was cancelled. Don't make any plans the day you leave/arrive or depart. It's very likely your flight will change. Airlines have been trying to figure out how to consolidate empty aircraft and dealing with summer/fall and hurricane weather adds a scheduling complication. This is just a symptom of traveling right now in which we have to be prepared. For example, on my flight home to San Diego from Ohio back in July, Delta just outright cancelled my flight. Although I was bummed to wait another day to see my husband and puppy, the way Delta handled it was excellent. They texted me and said "Your flight has been cancelled, click here to reschedule" I clicked, and rescheduled in a matter of 2 minutes. It did not cost me any extra money or very much time. I also appreciated they texted me 4 hours before my flight. I had not left for the airport yet and was not stuck at an airport. They cancelled because there was a weather issue with an aircraft out of Miami and it threw off the whole schedule. My flight the next day was fine and it all worked out. I highly recommend putting your "I'm a cool cat flexible empathetic human" hat on when flying right now. Flights and schedules will change. I have an Alaska flight in October that has already changed times twice and I just booked it a couple weeks ago. I anticipate another change.
Overall I felt very safe getting on an airplane again. The airports all did a great job. The security lines were short. The signage was excellent. And, Delta, is still my all time favorite airline.
For more information on traveling, meetings, conferences, and general life follies, visit me at www.mandigraziano.com Since many people still haven't boarded their first flight yet, sharing is caring. Share this article if you dare...
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