Air Travel During the Pandemic

By Manjeri Raman, Savannah, GA

The author sitting inside the plane with his mask.

My wife Krishna and I traveled to Seattle in mid-July after postponing our tickets twice — in early March and then in June — thinking that the Covid-19 situation would improve. Surprisingly, Delta did not charge us a change fee. The pandemic showed no sign of abating.  We took our chances and traveled, since we needed to go to see our son there.

0ur check-in experience at the empty Savannah airport was smooth, with everyone wearing masks and gloves. Savannah being a small airport, the TSA agents were friendly and considerate about allowing food in the hand baggage. The waiting area at the gates was set up for social distancing with alternate seats clearly marked.  Boarding was strictly by row numbers, with time allowed for social distancing. Our flights first to Atlanta and then to Seattle were about a little over half full.

The empty concourse at the Atlanta Airport, usually it would filled with transit passengers.

As we entered the plane, flight attendants greeted us with a Ziploc bag with two small snack bags, bottled water and a sanitizing wipe. They offered masks if you needed them. Everyone was expected to wear the mask during the entire flight except when eating. All the passengers complied. The seats and the seat-back trays were clean and you could use the wipes to clean them further!

Atlanta airport, one of the busiest in the world, with seven con-courses, was a ghost town with just a handful of passengers walking around. It was quite an eerie experience! Very few business travelers. Most like us, were traveling out of necessity.

Empty security check in at Savannah airport, GA

Our layover in Atlanta was about an hour. In the long flight to Seattle, flight attendants cleaned the bathrooms frequently. No cart service of any kind – only bottled water was served – and if you ordered drinks, they brought it to your seat. They did not want to handle either cash or credit cards. Everyone brought food and the trash was picked up frequently.

When we landed in Seattle, another busy airport, ours was the only plane to land at that time, and within minutes we picked up our baggage and met our son outside! Again, this was quite different from our usual trips to Seattle.

We had to cut short our trip by a week, and when I called Delta, they were accommodative and again changed my flights without any fee. I was surprised to get a small refund, as the base fare for the date was lower than what we had paid.

The return flights to Atlanta and Savannah were a replay of the outbound flights. This time we had over a two-hour layover in Atlanta. The food court was partially open, and we had our dinner with mask and social distancing guidelines.

Overall, Delta did a great job under difficult circumstances. I was surprised however that not a single question was asked about Covid-related symptoms nor were our temperatures checked. I thought since we were traveling from the state of Georgia, ruled by an irresponsible governor, there would be some checks or questions. I also expected to fill out our destination address for contact tracing. None of that happened!

We were traveling as before, with no restrictions or questions. This is quite different from India and other countries, where serious efforts are underway to make sure that the Covid virus does not spread due to unrestricted or unchecked travel. END$$


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