What does a post-quarantine flight look like?

When you work in the travel industry, hopping on a plane, train, vehicle, or boat is a regular occurrence. So naturally, spending three months at home (and canceling a 2.5-week trip to Australia) was a rare occurrence. Albeit, I enjoyed my time with the dogs, and the house projects have come along quite nicely; it was time to venture back out there. And while I may not be headed down under or on a 15-hour flight anytime soon, my trip to Lexington, Kentucky, was a good way to get my toes wet!

In Chicago, getting to and from the airport is often exhaustive in and of itself. But with light traffic, we grabbed a Lyft, enjoyed some fresh air (windows down, masks on for precautions), and were there in 30 minutes. Cue the hand sanitizer. The vehicle left a bit to be desired, but that’s a story for another time. I’m impressed so far.

Navigating the airport in Chicago is always the second adventure. But with the airlines running at 20-25% of their schedule, this was a breeze. As we flew on a United regional jet, we flew out of Terminal 2 at O’hare. TSA pre-check was closed, so we utilized the general security line. We did not have to remove our masks for security or scan our phones/boarding passes; they checked our details with a swipe of our ID – a new procedure. We then simply showed our Pre-Check status at security and breezed through as we normally would. I stopped and washed my hands after.

So far, so good. As we entered the common area of the airport, I was a bit disappointed. While masks are technically required, there are no signs posted, and in my opinion, there were far too many people without them and not observing spacial boundaries. When taking morning flights, I routinely grab breakfast and tea at Starbucks but choose to forego this in order to keep my mask intact. United had placed plastic barriers on the customer service counters, which I thought was proactive.

I washed my hands one more time before boarding and changed from a cloth mask to an N95 for the plane. Prior to boarding, the gate agent took the opportunity to move everyone around a bit, allowing us to utilize the whole plane and spread out as much as possible – my flight was only half full. At the time of boarding, they boarded from the back to the front of the plane. (Lufthansa has routinely done this in the past.) Sanitation wipes and mini bottles of water were handed out upon boarding. I used mine to clean the armrests, seat belt and buckle, and anything else I thought I may touch. And more hand sanitizer. The plane itself appeared rather clean, although my husband did find someone’s Stroopwafel in his seat pocket. The flight was scheduled for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and we made it in early!

Upon arrival, I stopped for another round of hand washing and to switch masks before heading off to see family.

All in all, I have to say, I am impressed. Cheers to you, United; your new procedures and team were wonderful. While it was certainly a different and heightened experience, it did satiate the palate.

Have you flown post-quarantine? What was your experience like?