Due to Covid19 there are a lot of restrictions currently in place that ban the movement and gathering of people. Despite all of the government’s restrictions and recommendations, airports are still open in the United States and airlines are still flying to select destinations. Everything about travel today is fluid and is ever changing. For those of us who are still flying or board sitting at home, one must wonder what is it like to travel in today’s environment.
Airports During Covid19
First, the airport is nearly empty. It reminded me of 3 am on New Years day. There were still people checking in, working, and checking bags. Yet unlike usual, the airport was quiet and calm.
There are virtually no lines at security. Every check point was deserted. I made it through security in about 2 minutes flat and that was even after being selected randomly for additional screening.
Once airside, there were actually more people. Currently due to restrictions in Washington State, restaurants are takeout only. This also applies in the airport.
The idea of closing the restaurants is a bit silly though, because the central terminal still has several tables where people can sit down and eat their “to-go” food.
Some shops are still open, such as Hudson news. Many retailers have opted to close.
Down by the gates things are slightly busier. People are coming and going to planes and moving around. There are fewer people, just like you would imagine.
Many airport lounges are closing. Each day we hear of new lounges being shuttered. Friday 3/20 is the last day American Express Centurion lounges will be open. On our visit, the lounge was still open, but with new operating rules.
Upon check in, the agent did not touch anything. Instead he had me hold up my American Express card so he could manually input the number. Then the new rules were shared with me. Social distancing requires us to ask people to sit further apart and nothing is self-serve.
The buffet has fewer options, but still some pretty good choices. The buffet is no longer self-serve. Instead, someone serves you and you point at what you want. In addition, a staff member makes your coffee for you. This limits the number of touch points. The bar was still open and the lounge was empty. As American Express lounges are private clubs and not bars, they did not have to stop serving alcohol. Seattle does not have spa services, but these services have been discontinued in Dallas and Miami and all showers are closed too.
Staff were all upbeat and happy to still be working. Yet, the pending closure was wearing on them. The American Express Centurion lounge had about 30 people total in the lounge. Strangers were socializing with strangers, and the mood was pretty upbeat. Overall one of the better experiences to this lounge.
Flying – It Felt Normal
Once onboard the plane, everything felt normal. It was almost as if we had escaped the hysteria in the world around us. The FAs made their normal announcement and let us know that the plane had been extra disinfected. A deep clean is done before and all touch points were cleaned.
Waiting for us in first class, it was just like the pre-covid19 days. Each seat had new blanket still wrapped.
Then, before departure we had Hawaiian POG mimosas. Alaska is usually really good about a preflight drink on flights to Hawaii. On other routes, not so much.
My partner and I decided we would cheers and practice social distances.
The flight was unusually full, granted the media and everything we see about empty planes. Every seat in First was full and the back of the plane was at about 50% capacity.
During the flight, service felt like business as usually. Eery flight attendant was extra friendly, making jokes, and happy to be going to Hawaii. I don’t know if it was because we were going to Hawaii, or they were just happy to be working. In first class, the flight attendant had 38 years of experience, and she was still happy to be on her twice monthly trip to Hawaii. It’s all she flies!
Things continued through the flight and it all felt normal. First class still had meals. Instead of doing it courses, we asked to be served all at once. Everyone else was served in courses. About 30 minutes after dinner, dessert was served.
The only thing that was “different” was there was no glassware. Plastic cups were used, and never refilled. Since there were not refills, the flight attendant left the can and mini bottles so if we had enough ice, we could refill the cup ourselves.
Two hours before landing in Hawaii the snack basket was made available. Although, no touching! The flight attendant used tongs and told us what was available. Thus again, reducing a touch point.
If it didn’t know what was happening around the world, I would have felt normal. The flight was an excellent experience.
Flying – Everything is rapidly changing
Flying right now is not popular and again I remind you that many governments are requesting people to shelter in place. Every day we learn of new restrictions, closure of borders and more. If you fly somewhere, you may get stuck. Airlines schedules are changing. If you fly, know your risks.
With that said, know my flying experience felt normal and great this week. Yet, everything continues to rapidly change. Just today, Alaska announced new modified service with no food or alcohol.
From an email from Alaska Airlines,
How to prepare for reduced service levels on board.
We know this can be a stressful time to travel. At Alaska Airlines, we are doing everything possible to keep you safe.
In response to CDC social distancing guidelines, we are reducing the onboard service level for your upcoming trip. Food and beverage offerings will include water and a limited selection of canned sodas and juices. We will temporarily stop serving hot beverages, orange juice, and alcoholic beverages. For flights under 250 miles, all beverage service will be suspended. We recommend that you bring a personal water bottle to fill after passing through the TSA checkpoint.
Food service on board has also been temporarily suspended, aside from a small packaged snack. Unfortunately, we will not be able to fulfill any meals that have been pre-ordered. Plan ahead by packing a snack or picking up something to eat at the airport.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you during your trip. As always, the safety of our guests and our employees is our number one priority.
What one airline, airport, or lounge is doing today, may change tomorrow. The government restrictions and recommendations may also change. Travel is not advised at the time, but if you are traveling, be flexible and adjust your expectations. Yet more importantly stay safe and healthy.