I recently returned from a vacation to Florida, which involved flights with layovers in each direction. Having experienced firsthand what air travel looks and feels like in a few different airports and on planes, I want to share my thoughts, experience, and recommendations.
The TSA has implemented some new policies which limit physical contact and benefit everyone’s health, safety, and social distancing. To recap:
- Travelers can now bring up to 12 ounces of liquid hand sanitizer with them in a carry-on bag or personal item (like a backpack or purse). Previously, the amount of liquid allowed was 3.4 ounces.
- TSA officers don’t handle your boarding pass; the traveler scans their own boarding pass.
- Social distancing is practiced through security checkpoints, and TSA officers wear masks.
- As you go through security, you are required to remove all food from your carry-on bag; it should be in a clear plastic bag. (Except for TSA Precheck members, who can keep their food inside their carry-on.)
I have to say, as of this writing (June 2020), airport security is a DREAM. With very few travelers right now, plan on breezing through security in minutes. I flew both in the morning and afternoon, and security lines were almost nonexistent.
In the airport:
Only about 25% of the in-airport restaurants and shops are open right now. In one city, we had only an hour layover and needed to grab some food. It was a little challenging finding something that we wanted to eat which was open, and getting the food in time, but it all worked out. Our family of 6 ended up eating at three different places, but luckily everyone found something they could live with.
On the plane:
None of my flights were sold out by pre-COVID standards, because the middle seats were left open to help with social distancing. Three of my four flights were “full,” meaning 2/3 of the plane was full, with the fourth flight being pretty empty: I think there were fewer than 50 passengers on that flight.
Surfaces in the plane are completely wiped down and sanitized between flights; there was always a cleaning crew waiting to board as we disembarked at each city. We were told by the flight attendants that all touchpoints were thoroughly cleaned between flights.
Every passenger who flies is REQUIRED to wear a mask at all times (with the exception of eating or drinking). All flight attendants and personnel were wearing masks and gloves as well.
Food and beverage service on planes is almost nonexistent. If the flight is short, you may or may not get something from the flight attendant. For longer flights (more than 2 hours), you will usually be served a small bottle, can, or cup of water, along with the airline’s snack. The interaction between travelers and flight crew is very limited; they walk up and down the aisles with a garbage bag a couple of times, but that’s it after the initial water-and-snack service. Passengers are asked to not line up to use the airplane restroom, but rather just wait for someone else to leave before using the bathroom.
So, is it safe to fly?
I say YES. With the precautions that are in place, I felt comfortable and at ease with my flight experience. I had very little interaction (and no close interaction) with people outside my own family. I didn’t feel crowded, or worried about being in too close of proximity to others. However, if you’re traveling soon, be sure to stock up on food or snacks before leaving home, and buy a beverage after clearing security in the airport. You don’t want to land at your destination dehydrated and starving!
Let me know if you’re interested in getting away somewhere! U.S. destinations are open, and many other countries are opening and are anxious to see travelers!