I know this is not the most glamourous post but with all the uncertainty of flying nowadays, I figured it was important to share some information on flying during this Covid-19 pandemic. Fellow Blogger, Brad, recently wrote about his experience flying with American and Delta and I figured it would be helpful to share some information regarding my recent flights with Southwest Airlines. To be clear, I don’t recommend leisure travel at this time but if you really need to fly, Southwest is not a bad airline to be flying with.
My two flights with Southwest Airlines were from Orange County to San Jose, California on June 30 and back on July 1, 2020, and this was my first time flying since February. I’m not paranoid by any means but I must admit that I was very hesitant to take this trip. My flight was originally booked for May 2020. I kept pushing it back thanks to Southwest’s amazing “no change/cancellation fee” policy, but eventually, I had to take this trip to handle some legal paperwork for my parents.
On the day prior to my departure flight, I checked in on the Southwest app a couple of hours after my check-in time opened and surprisingly got position A37. This was amazing as prior to the pandemic, checking in two hours late would have gotten me in the C boarding group. To complete the check-in process, I had to acknowledge several things such as not being sick and agreeing to wear a face-covering (mask) during my flight. On the return trip, I checked in about 20 minutes after my check-in time opened and got position A57. The return flight was a little more crowded than my departure flight but not by much.
At both Orange County and San Jose, TSA Pre-check lanes were still offered and I got through security in under three minutes. And for those without TSA Pre-check, it looked like the regular lines were moving quickly also so if you have a mobile boarding pass in hand and no bags to check, I wouldn’t worry about getting to the airport super early. Post-security, lounges were still not opened yet but fortunately, some restaurants and coffee places were open for takeout.
Like I said earlier, I’m not even remotely paranoid but I did find myself being very cognizant of my surroundings. I was very careful of washing my hands, keeping my distance, having my face mask on all the time, etc., but apparently not everyone felt the same way. If I had to estimate, I would say about 90% of the people traveling were wearing their face-coverings appropriately/socially distancing and the remaining 10% were either wearing their face-coverings improperly (i.e. not covering their noses), not socially distancing or not caring at all.
I don’t think people need to go crazy and wear chemsuits but I don’t think people should be walking around as if everything is normal either. Just meet me halfway and wear a mask. That’s all I’m asking. And if you can’t do that for whatever reason, don’t stand or sit next to me. If you forget your face-covering at home or somehow lose it, Southwest will provide you with one for free so there’s no excuse.
At the gates, Southwest usually has three queues going for the three different boarding groups (A, B and C) but now, everyone is asked to remain seated or socially distance from each other. Instead of just lining up according to your boarding group, the gate attendants will ask 10 people to line up at a time for boarding. So after pre-boarders, A1 – A10 will line up to board, A11 – A20, and so forth.
Once on-board, you are free to sit anywhere in the cabin except for the first and last rows of the aircraft, which are blocked to provide social distancing for their crew. They also ask that no one sit in the middle seats unless it’s someone you’re traveling with. From now until at least September 30, 2020, Southwest is promising to keep plane capacity low enough to allow for all middle seats to be open. This was no problem at all considering my departure flight was only 30% full and my return flight was maybe 40% full. There were plenty of empty seats all around.
Service-wise, water cups and a packaged snack mix are provided for all flights over 250 miles. Straws are available upon requests but all other drinks and snacks are suspended until further notice. So if you have some expiring drink coupons, don’t’ worry. Those have all been extended. And of course, WiFi, messaging and streaming entertainment are still provided for all flights. I love that Southwest has made messaging (iMessenger and Whatsapp) free for all passengers and the complimentary streaming entertainment is packed full of movies, TV shows and live TV.
Southwest also promises the following measures to keep us all safe:
- Both an electrostatic disinfectant and an anti-microbial spray are applied on every surface of the aircraft, killing viruses on contact and forming an anti-microbial coating or shield for 30 days.
- Sani-Cide EX3, a broad-spectrum disinfectant, will be used to clean commonly used areas (onboard lavatories, tray tables, armrests, seat belts, flight attendant call buttons, and overhead bin handles) before every flight. (Began mid-May)
- Deep clean each plane from nose to tail for nearly 6-7 hours every night. (Began March 4)
- Every aircraft is equipped with a sophisticated air recirculation system that introduces fresh air into the cabin every second while inflight, resulting in a complete exchange of cabin air every two to three minutes. We use HEPA filters onboard that remove 99.97% of airborne particles*—similar to the technology found in hospitals.
- Hand sanitizer is available at the check-in kiosks, ticket counters, and gates. Wipes will be available for Customers onboard.
- We’re cleaning the ticket counters, gates, and baggage claim areas multiple times a day.
Overall Thoughts About Flying Southwest
I think Southwest is handling this pandemic a million times better than the other airlines. They have the best change/cancellation policy and their open seating (with the promise of open middle seats until September 30) is fantastic. Sure, there’s no food or alcohol served onboard but honestly, I was fine with that. Even with fewer people on the flights, I still felt the need to wear my mask the entire time. I removed my mask briefly a few times to take a sip of water here and there but eating or drinking for an extended amount of time was not something I felt comfortable doing yet.
What are your thoughts? Will you be flying anytime soon? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!