Flying During Covid #1

Southwest Airlines to Denver

Like many of you I’ve been at home waiting for life to return to normal. I’m tired of hearing about the so-called “new normal”. I do not believe we should be settling for this “new normal”. With this as my motivation, I returned to flying on June 10th. Many of you may disagree with my decision, but to borrow a line from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, “…get busy living, or get busy dying!” I choose to live, and for me, that means travel! The question I had was “what’s it like flying during covid?” Here’s what I found on a flight with Southwest airlines to Denver.

At the Airport

All reports I see these days indicate the value of wearing a mask while in public. Boise, Denver, and Seattle airports are no different, although the above trip report only details Boise Airport.

manditory mask wearing
Mandatory mask wearing at Boise Airport

My biggest surprise is the number of people actually at the airport. I had expected a virtual ghost town based on social media posts, like those on Instagram. While not at normal levels, larger numbers were present than expected.

people at the Boise airport
People waiting for breakfast at Boise Airport.

As of June 10th, I’d estimate that approximately 50% of the airport shops and restaurants were open. The situation is fluid, so there is no telling if more will open soon, or those that are open may close. I have a flight this week, so we’ll see if anything at the airport has changed.

Southwest Airlines Boarding

Normal Southwest Airlines boarding occurs in groups of 30 with passengers lining up on either side of pylons in the boarding area. Boarding is done by group letter and number.

boarding with southwest during covid
The much shorter than normal boarding line for Southwest Airlines

With Covid social distancing guidance, groups of 10 line up, socially distanced or something, before boarding. Passengers are still assigned a letter and number to indicate when to board. Most of the passengers seemed to follow a level of social distancing, but once onboard, things seem to fall apart.

Southwest Airlines features open seating…what this means is anyone can sit anywhere when they board. So where do most people sit? Most people on this flight sat as far forward as possible, meaning all passengers walk past them when boarding. This method obviates the idea of social distancing IMO when flying during covid.

Onboard Service

Full normal service by Southwest would be assorted drinks and snacks. In order to limit the flight attendants time among the passengers, this has been reduced. Once aloft, onboard service consisted of a snack mix bag and a can of water, close to normal service for Southwest Airlines. We should all drink more water anyway…

Southwest provides canned water
Southwest beverage service included your choice of water or water.

De-Boarding in Denver

As mentioned above, boarding procedures don’t allow for much social distancing. The same is true for the de-boarding process. In normal disembarking, everyone gets up, crowds the aisle, and rushes out of the aircraft. As shown in the video, the rush still occurs. Everyone either forgets, or doesn’t really care to stay separate.

leaving the airplane just like normal
Rushing to leave the airplane, just like normal.

That’s a wrap

We are recommended to wear masks and stay socially distant during these abnormal times. I think the video of this flight demonstrates that flying right now doesn’t really provide the opportunity to stay distant. Airlines are advertising the air filtering and replenishing on their aircraft, and I heard anecdotally that the airplane environment is cleaner that you would expect. According to a Tweet by the Texas Medical Association, air travel represents a moderate-high risk. Is it worth flying during covid? Only you can answer that question…

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1 comment

  1. Hi, Jon, Well, I’ve always wondered what you were up to since the last time we saw you. I’m not sure when that was, but I do remember when you, Laura and Baby Emmy came to Seattle for a Mariner’s game. Remember? And now I hear that you are retired! Well, looks like you found some interesting things to do in your retirement. I enjoyed looking at all of the sections. Beautiful photography! Interesting topics! Fun! Everyone should have fun in their retirement. I retired on June 30, 2000 after 32 years of teaching and have not had even one single boring day since! I consider that a great blessing. We are busy…doing what we need and want to do. The Lord has been so good to us – and I mean ALL OF US. Love to you, Laura, Emmy and Andy from Dave and Irene your godparents.

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