Updated: Jan 18
Being a travel blogger is all fun and games, until a pandemic hits. In the last year, I have traveled to over 10 countries, and now our summer plans have come to a screeching halt. Santorini will have to wait!
Since we live in Denmark during the year, the first flight we took was an international flight home on May 8th, 2020. We took a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that holds 315 people, and on our flight, there were only 35 including the crew and pilots. You can read about that trip here.
Many people have asked me about our experience flying in a pandemic. And here is what I’ve gathered.
Why were we flying?
We live in Denmark August to May for work, and normally we spend our summers flying between family. In 2018, we sold our car, and now we are a bit strapped when it comes to travel options in the US.
Since the pandemic started we have made three trips and been inside these airports: Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Newark, Houston, Dallas, Albuquerque, Austin, and Phoenix.
For the safety of us and those around us, we are proactively getting tested for coronavirus every four to six weeks. Some of our family are considered high risk, and we want to do our due diligence and protect ourselves and those we love. We have been tested twice now, negative.
I will say, getting out of Europe in May was a royal pain in the behind. Our flight got canceled about five times, and it ended up taking around 42 hours to get home. It was miserable!
But now, flights are pretty easy to come by and cheap. Airlines are desperate to get their seats filled. Here in the states, we have been flying Southwest, and they have been a dream.
When we canceled our flight a few hours before departure, for fear we had come into contact with COVID, they gave us a travel voucher with an expiration date of September 2022. I would highly recommend flying with them.
Coronavirus travel insurance is easy to come by right now and almost afforded to everyone at no cost. It is nice to know you’re covered!
What was new?
Obviously, this whole thing is new to everyone involved, so it was clear that the airports were still trying to work out the kinks. I will say, cities like Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Newark had much better signage and practices than the USA. We think it was because they are bigger cities with more people.
Security is a breeze right now! Absolutely a joy. The guards are mostly relaxed, and we haven’t spent more than 10 minutes in a security line since we’ve flown.
This has been hit or miss. Obviously, being packed into a plane is anxiety-inducing normally. But you cannot imagine what it’s like now. People are quiet, miserable, and on edge.
Most airlines are doing what they can to keep some seats empty. Thus far, we have lucked out and always had a free seat in our row.
But we did take one completely packed flight from Newark to Houston, it sucked. One sneeze and the airplane feels like it would fall right out of the sky! Another flight we took had 5 people in total.
Many airplanes are limited to only 60-70% capacity, but it varies from airline to airline. Check each airline's policies.
Luckily, every flight we’ve been on everyone has been required to wear masks. People do take them off to eat and drink. But overall, we’ve been pleased with the mask enforcement.
Two weeks ago a man got kicked off a flight and banned from American Airlines for not wearing a mask. Go American!
Some airlines are boarding the back of the plane first, by rows in order to reduce contact. I think this is a great idea. You have fewer people walking past your face. But in every plane, de-boarding has been chaos, some habits die hard. So be alert upon exit.
I feel for flight attendants right now, so many have been laid off or furloughed. So everyone we’ve come into contact with was happy to have us on board and supporting business.
They all had masks on, and some had gloves. One flight attendant saw me cloroxing the seat and assured me that she already did every nook and cranny (not that it stopped me).
How safe is flying?
Flying in a cramped plane is no way to social distance. But if you have to, take the right precautions:
Wear a mask.
Pick a window seat, you’ll avoid more moving air, and potential virus clouds passing in the aisle.
Bring hand sanitizer. I read the most likely place to contract the virus is in the security bins! Sanitize heavily.
Use disposable gloves.
Keep disinfectant wipes handy.
Turn on the air vent overhead, that air is clean and even virus particles are filtered out.
Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Cover all sneezes and coughs.
Keep six feet of distance.
PRO TIP: Bring lots of breath mints or mouthwash, having a mask over your mouth for extended periods of time is no fun.
My sister is currently working for the CDC. So I am in constant contact with her as the guidelines evolve, but currently this is the CDC’s guidance on air travel,
“Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.
However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Even if you do take all the precautions, it is still stressful, no way around it. And you will be increasing your odds of coming into contact with the disease.
But if you take the right precautions you can have peace of mind knowing that you did everything you could.
If you should have to fly...
Try to be calm and polite, and follow the guidelines as much as you can. Everyone is in the same boat as you (well, plane rather). You should refer to the CDC and local guidelines to get in-depth guidance.
When you land, the best practice is to shower before you see anyone. The virus can linger on our bodies or clothes. When we touched down to see my parents we kept our masks on and jumped into a hot shower as soon as we could.
Coronavirus Travel Advisory
Cases are on the rise, and we all need to do our part to slow the spread. And when you get to where you are going, stay home for 14 days!
Coronavirus travel is no joke. Travel as we know it may never be the same. Until a vaccine comes out, this will become a new normal.
Thanks for reading! Have you been flying since the pandemic? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my experience and hear about your experiences.
Stay safe all, and mask up!