Flying During The Pandemic: What’s Changed

Traveling in 2020 is unlike anything many of us would have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed borders, grounded planes and at some point, put millions of Americans under stay-at-home orders, prompting temporary restaurant and business closures.

Like many people, I didn’t expect to get back on a plane before 2021. My planned professional and religious conferences opted for virtual settings and there was no need to travel to states that had essentially shut down, but my plans to avoid airports quickly changed when a friend invited me to go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain National Park.

If you’re concerned or afraid to get on a plane, here are the six differences I noted that might put your mind at ease:

1. Masks

The first and most obvious difference from traveling before the pandemic is mask wearing. Masks are required in the airport and on the planes at all times unless you’re actively eating or drinking. If you forget on the plane, you will be reminded. While I consider this a good change for everyone’s safety, wearing a mask on my flights and during the layovers got pretty uncomfortable. If you’re flying during the pandemic, make sure you’re wearing a mask that fits properly and is generally pretty comfortable. Also, consider booking non-stop flights so you can spend less time in the airport and on the plane. For more information about Delta’s mask policy and exemptions, click here.

2. Skip A Seat

Depending on the airport, you may be encouraged to skip a seat at the gates. The Kansas City International Airport has signs in the seats to remind you not to sit directly next to another person. It’s not quite the six feet recommended for social distancing, but a little space is better than none. Because it’s encouraged that you skip a seat, they fill up fast so I’d recommend getting to your gate early if you want to sit down.

3. The Boarding Process

During this trip, I traveled with Delta Airlines. Unlike before, the airline’s boarding process is to load the aircraft from back to front so if your seat is in the back of the plane, you’ll likely be one of the first ones on. They call for 3-4 rows at a time instead of going by their usual boarding process. Note: Delta One, First Class and Diamond Medallion customers are still allowed to board at any point. You can read more about their current policy here.

4. Open Seats

On my Delta flights, I flew on small aircrafts. As a result, the aisle seats remained open to provide more space and safety for passengers. I flew from Kansas City to Detroit without my friend so I sat alone. Once I met my friend in Detroit, we sat together on the flight to Knoxville. On larger aircrafts, Delta is choosing to leave the middle seat open, but this policy won’t last forever. It’s expected to end in January 2021. You can read the current policy here.

5. Bagged Snacks

Wearing a mask on a flight doesn’t mean you have to go hungry or thirsty. Delta Airlines still provided us with a beverage and snacks, but it came with less options. Instead of asking you what beverage you’d like, flight attendants gave everyone on the plane the same bag of snacks. Yes, I said bag. In a sealed bag, we all received a bottle of water, Cheez-Its, Biscoff cookies, a napkin and a hand wipe. No alcohol or ice was offered to passengers in the Main Cabin, but you’re still allowed to carry snacks and drinks onto the plane. For more information on their food & beverage policy, click here.

6. Hand Wipes

The final difference I noticed was the hand wipe we received upon entering the aircraft. The flight attendant passed them out to everyone as we headed to our seats. It was a small gesture, but appreciated.

These changes may not be enough to put your mind at ease, but I felt much more comfortable once I noticed these policies were in place. If you’re planning a trip and deciding whether or not to fly, I hope this helped no matter which decision you make. Happy (and safe) Travels!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. This is solely written based on my personal experience flying with Delta Airlines during the pandemic in October 2020.


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