Flying during the Coronavirus Pandemic — What to Expect Now and in the Future

Taking flights right now is still possible, and my experience will likely be a look into the future for when travel restrictions begin to relax.

By Kate Ruddell | Apr 27, 2020, 10:54 AM

Essential travel still exists – and I was recently a part of that group. According to Forbes.com, many major U.S. and international airlines have cut flight capacity in April and May by nearly 70% due to the coronavirus pandemic.1 Taking flights right now is still possible, and my experience will likely be a look into the future for when travel restrictions begin to relax.

My flight was a domestic trip inside of the U.S. departing from a major metropolitan airport and connecting at a major international airport. I pulled up to the curb around 4:45am for my 6am flight, and only one other car was there. What was typically the busiest time for flights (Friday morning) - the airport was now a ghost town.


Airport Check-In

The doors swayed open and I walked right up to the Delta desk to get checked in. They greeted me with a big smile and I chatted with an employee while I printed my ticket. I asked how things have been.

“I checked in quite a few people yesterday. We only have flights at 6am today and then nothing but cleaning until the next flight at noon. We just clean over and over again.”

I thanked them and headed over to security. There were more people than I expected, but still less than the normal 6am Friday morning flight. For a moment, I thought, “What a nice change of pace compared to the long lines and waits.” The security person asked for my ID then told me I had to remove my mask to confirm my identity. Security moved along at a decent pace, and I was allowed to keep my mask on while walking through the body scanner.


Airport Stores Closed

Once I made it through security, it was a short jaunt to my gate. After wiping down my seat liberally with the Lysol wipes I packed, I plopped down to wait for boarding. Depending on your perspective, the quiet of the airport could be described as eerie or comforting. Classical music echoed through the terminal. The only thing open at this hour- deemed essential - was a Starbucks.


Airport Hand Sanitizer

I looked around my gate – 25 people total. About 1/3 of the people wore masks. Half of the crowd was airline employees traveling to work at their next destination. Hand sanitizer stations were readily available at every gate. Everyone was adhering to the recommended social distancing guidelines of 6 feet between people.

“We will be boarding the aircraft from the back to the front, but of course, our Delta gold, platinum and diamond medallion members are allowed to board at any point.”


Empty Plane

As we boarded, I counted the travelers: 25 total. 13 delta employees – all adults. The aircraft seats 124 normally, so, needless to say, we were all able to enjoy our own row.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure your safety. Please do not flush masks or wipes down the toilet.”


Sanitizing Wipes

The flight attendants passed out Purell hand sanitizing wipes to every passenger. It was an unexpected and welcomed treat. As soon as we were up in the air, the flight attendants also came around with plastic bags with a snack, cookies, a bottle of water, and more Purell hand sanitizer wipes.

“We use high grade disinfectants and a state-of-the-art air filtration system.”

From there on out it was like any other flight – a little bit more comfortable and a lot more quiet (something I definitely took advantage of at 6 in the morning).

When I reached my connecting gate, I was shocked to see that my next flight would be nearly full.


Disinfecting Wipes

On my first flight, I had plenty of room with no one in front of me, no one behind me, and an entire row to myself. This flight was quite different (I suspect this was due to less planes being in use). I had people in front of me, people behind me, and, luckily, an open middle seat between me and the person I shared my row with. There were around 125 people on my second flight. Despite having 5x the number of travelers, I felt equally as safe as I did on the earlier flight. It almost put my mind more at ease to realize there were other people traveling during this difficult time.

The fact of the matter is, people are still traveling. Some may be taking advantage of the low flight ticket costs and returning home, and some might be medics traveling to COVID-19 hot spots to work. As a whole, I felt Delta provided me with a safe experience and I was very thankful for that. Additionally, I feel confident in booking future flights and trips, and I am looking forward to continuing my travel adventures.

If you are an IMG member facing necessary travel, please review our Coronavirus Resource Page for information from IMG’s medical team on staying healthy and minimizing exposure. Our goal is to keep you safe and we’ll continue to be there for you during your travels.

1https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/03/26/master-list-of-all-major-international-airline-coronavirus-change-and-cancellation-policies/#2b25a78e3a59

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