Flying During A Time Of Social Distancing

By Madelaine

No matter what I do, I do not recommend flying right now during this time of uncertainty. That said, I did need to get home and take an essential flight from Minneapolis  to D.C. For all you out there who need to take essential flight travel while we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing, here’s my March 18 adventure out of the Minneapolis airport. 

Before I had even taken my flight, I realized that all my classes were moving online and I could go home early. I was also afraid that the situation in the United States was going to change and that domestic flights might shut down. Stressed and anxious, I went to change my plane ticket. Delta, along with other airlines are wavering their change and cancelation fees until May 31, even for people like me who didn’t pay for insurance. Delta, which is the airline that I religiously use, only allows you to change your flight once, which made me anxious because I’m still worried I’ll need to change my flight again on my way back and then have to pay two-hundred-dollars. But I decided that I would rather be stuck at my parents house in Virginia than stuck on my own in my apartment in Minnesota. 

I went online to change my flight. I tried calling Delta twice thinking that might be easier to change my flight, but at the time it was five days before my flight and the Delta system wasn’t letting me go through to a live person unless my flight was seventy-two hours out. The online system for some reason even though a popup came onto my computer saying I couldn’t switch my flight until the seventy-two hour time period still allowed me to change my flight for free without any problem. I do suggest if you have large problems and can’t get ahold of someone on the phone and your computer isn’t working, go to the airport itself and have someone there help you. The airport in Minneapolis and D.C. when I was there on March 18 was empty. 

On the day of my flight I did refuse to take an Uber and had a friend drive me as  I wasn’t too fond of the idea of taking another form of transportation that I couldn’t fully control. Armed with only some travel size disinfectant wipes, I walked into the airport where there were probably twenty people at most milling around. 

I’ve never been more paranoid in my life than when I was at the airport. I made a wide berth around everyone, wondering how far six feet truly is. No one was in the check baggage line, allowing me to go right up front to drop off my bag, then head to security. 

There were fifteen people in front of me in security and it took about ten minutes to go through mostly because everyone in front of me seemed like first time fliers who didn’t know what they needed to do. Which is take their computer out of their bags and place them in a separate bin from the rest of their stuff, take off shoes and belts, and jackets. One man in front of me had one glove on, on his right hand so he could touch surfaces without contaminating his hand, which I slightly wished I had done just to alleviate my paranoia. The kids behind me had masks on, which really will only help you if you’re sick and don’t want to give it to others, it won’t help you contract anything from others. 

It seemed like all TSA Agents  were on deck, even though most of them had nothing to do. There were two drug dogs on duty, which I figured was cool of them since with so few people at the airport it would be a good time to train them or any other staff. 

Most of the food places were open. I had McDonalds. There wasn’t a line which made social distancing there easy.. Then I ate it at my terminal where everyone had their own row of seats to themselves so no one had to get close to anyone else. Honestly it was the least stressful and time consuming experience I’ve ever had at an airport, minus the paranoia of getting sick. People watching was at its peak with all the workers and flight attendants milling around waiting for their next flight. I’ve never seen a vacuum used before at an airport but someone randomly started vacuuming as I was sitting there. The only thing I could have done without was a random person waiting for their flight had the Hunger Games whistle as their ringtone and it went off every couple of minutes when they would have a text. It sent me almost over the edge, making the almost empty airport feel eerie.  

Only nine people, including myself were on my flight. There were almost as many crew members as passengers. They allowed us to sit up front, everyone having their own row so we were all at least six feet apart at all times. They treated us like first class passengers, almost like we had our own private jet. We had one of the bigger planes too with t.v. streens. I made sure to wipe down my row and seats, trays, arm rests, and seat belt with my wipes, but really I don’t think it needed it. I’ve never seen a plane so clean in my life, everything felt like it had been disinfected multiple times before I had gotten on. 

We were handed a water bottle as soon as we got on, along with free headphones. Before we had even taken off I was asked if I wanted anything to drink besides water. Panicking, I asked for a Sprite. The attendant came back with a whole can and a cup of ice and I sat there as we took off just holding them in my lap, not trusting myself to open the can and poor it until we were in the air. Once we were in the air I got to choose a snack and was handed two bags of Cheez-Its. Hunking in with my feast and free headphones, I watched the entire movie of Jumanji: The Next Level.

As a frequent flier, I was so confused and dazed throughout the flight just from having everything to myself and such great service. I was asked if I was doing okay at least six times and each time I just kept awkwardly thanking them and being surprised whenever I was handed something.  

Once I was in D.C. it took two seconds to grab my suitcase at baggage, which was probably the worst bit for I felt weird grabbing it after not knowing where it had been. But that’s where the wipes came in handy in wiping my hands afterwards. Also I didn’t have to wait at all to get my bag, which I can never complain about.

I wouldn’t say the paranoia is worth flying right now. And practicing social distancing is more important than traveling. But if you’re like me and need to go home then take some calming breaths and enjoy the ride. It was honestly the most pleasant experience I ever had at an airport. If you’re really worried, but still need to fly, the best thing to be equipped with is hand wipes and gloves if you truly want them. If you have neither, just try and stay six feet away from most people and wash your hands when you can, then once you arrive at your destination try quarantining for 14 days, especially if you’re flying through New York. The airports are doing their best to keep everything as clean as possible, and with less and less people flying, it’s easier and easier to keep your six feet of distance at the airport.

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