Fyling during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Airports & Airlines
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Beginning of the month I had to take a cross-country flight from Miami to Seattle. The CoVID19 pandemic was in full rage and pretty much all states in the country were on some kind of lockdown order. Before someone tries to blame me for unnecessary travel, this was an essential trip and I even had paperwork with my from a government agency about the necessity of my trip. I would have rather stayed and avoided that trip.

At the Rental Car Center

Travel plummeted by 90% and more and the airport was pretty much a ghost town. It all started by dropping off my rental car. Avis stops having agents at the drop-off check-in after 5 p.m. Therefore I had to go upstairs to an agent at the main counter to return my vehicle. There was a note at the front of the drop-off line. They should have put up some more along the line. It was pretty quiet in the rental car center, I only saw a few people while boarding the people mover towards the airport. Most of the people, including me were wearing face coverings. 

At the Airport

The airport was like a ghost town. I have traveled so many times in and out of Miami International but never seen it so empty at around 7 p.m. As I walked toward the check-in counter I encountered a few people but mostly spread out inside the building. Check-in was quick and easy as usual and there was no wait time for either economy or first class check-in. I asked the agent if there was still an empty row available and she reassigned me just one row behind my original seat assignment in first class. She wasn’t sure if the seat next to me would stay open as there could be changes during boarding. 

Many of the check-in counters of American Airlines were closed as well as a bunch of security checkpoints. After dropping off my bags I headed over to the security checkpoint. 

All lines, except for crew members got combined. TSA-Precheck was merged with the regular security line. People were not really social distancing while in line. I kept my distance to the family in front of me but a young lady entering the line behind me didn’t care much about keeping the distance. I pushed my carry-on further behind me to create some distance between the two of us without being rude. 

Once up front, at the ID and boarding pass check, I got asked to remove my face covering really quick so they TSA officer can match me with my ID. I understand that part of security and check. What’s weird in a time like this, that the officer was wearing nitrile gloves but he never changed them and touched everyone’s I.D. and boarding pass without changing them. Therefore he would spread it from one infected I.D. to all the I.D.’s he touches. The risk of being infected this way is probably slim and I understand that changing the gloves for every passenger would be a logistic nightmare as well. 

Security Line

The officer saw my TSA PreCheck status and handed me a piece of paper which let me avoid the body scanner and removing shoes. However, I had to separate all my electronics from my bag which I can usually leave in my bag.

Overall it was quick to get through security even tho, I was not in a real PreCheck lane. All of the American Airlines lounges were closed. They only had staff available at certain lounges to help you with re-bookings but you weren’t allowed to sit down nor was any food or drinks provided. 

One of the few places open in my concourse was the Corona Beach House, which is part of the Priority Pass network. Since I arrived rather late and I had to walk quite a bit to my gate, I decided to pass on ordering food there. As I wasn’t sure that any place would be open inside the airport, I had a big dinner before leaving for the airport.

Most of the concourse was empty and not many people were inside the airport. This was a totally unexpected view. I never saw any big airport this empty. 

At the Gate

There were only a few passengers waiting around the gate. During my day of travel, face coverings were not officially required to be worn, which is now an enforced requirement at many airports. I wore my Buff since getting out of my rental car. Most of the people at the gate did as well. 

Gate D38

Boarding started about 15 minutes after I made it through security. During the boarding process, the people kept their distance to each other. I was flying first class and was the second one getting on the plane. 

On the Plane

I was the second person on board and kept my distance during the boarding process. I stowed my bags and settled down in my seat. It was a window seat and would put some distance between me and the other passengers boarding. 
American Airlines has recently announced that they would provide facemasks and hand sanitizer for passengers aboard the plane and that there would be higher cleaning standards of the aircraft.

Unfortunately, no masks or hand sanitizers were provided for anyone, at least not pro-active. I didn’t ask for it either. American Airlines also stated that they will only over that as long as supplies last. I can understand that, as this was probably one of the last flights of the day, that they already ran out of masks and hand sanitizer. It’s also not that easy to just distribute hand sanitizer to passengers. While crew and passengers are allowed to carry their own bottles, it requires FAA approval. Probably because of the high alcohol content which makes it extremely flammable. 

Therefore I don’t blame American for not supplying hand sanitizer but I blame them that they didn’t adhere to their new improved cleaning which they promoted through e-mail and social media. When I looked into the seatback pocket, I saw a used sanitation wipe in there and avoided using the pocket during my flight. This wipe shouldn’t have been there, especially due to increased cleaning procedures. 

Flight attendants made an announcement to not put used wipes into the seatback pocket, but that doesn’t stop people from being stupid, selfish, and rude. 

What most surprised me was the in-flight meal service. To be honest, I expected just to receive a selection of pre-packed food like chips or energy bars. I was pleasantly surprised when there was a hot meal covered during the flight. It makes sense, as it was a transcontinental flight from Miami to Seattle with a flight time of 6 hours. 

Conclusion

Overall I felt very safe during my trip and never was worried about being in danger. I also didn’t get infected during the flight or after, as I am still symptom-free after three weeks of my trip. During the flight, I was able to watch a few movies I haven’t seen before. The crew really took care of us. After the main meal service, they walked regularly through the aisles to check on us and offered snacks.

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