The pandemic has caused havoc on the world and has strangled the travel world by its throat. People are left wondering and wishing about when normalcy will come and travel will begin again. Sadly at the moment we will have to accept the new normal, maybe a bit longer than expected. Some of us need to travel, and when we do, we have to ask, is it safe?
Safety obviously can be a relative term for anyone. One person may feel safe in a scenario, yet another might view this as off limits. When it comes to travel, I have to say that the airports have done a good job of safely making travel accessible again. Now your destination might be another story…but the first step of course is how you get there!
We had a recent trip back home to Michigan from the Bay Area. We were a bit nervous with our expectations of what we would receive at the airport and what they were doing for safety during the pandemic. We were actually quite surprised at the scenario we came to.
San Francisco Airport
The airport itself was very clean, with Airport security being the first step for our travel. 6 foot distancing was a must as you moved through the line. All agents had masks on and did a great job of moving people through the line. We actually found that they seemed nicer now than they had been before! Of course this is also a relative term depending on your situation and the person you are dealing with.
We made our way to one of the few restaurants that were open at SFO in the Delta terminal. Of course, it had to involve a little bit of wine! The seats were 6 foot distanced and technically, the wine and food was made for you to go as opposed to asking you to stay. Regardless, you still had the option to sit and drink your wine and eat a bit. As we sat down and ate our soup and a little bit of vino, we saw several patrons make their way up to the bar. Most of them were actually quite happy about the option of to go wine. Realistically as travelers, I feel like this option isn’t given enough. It actually felt quite nice to get a can of wine and sit down at the gate, waiting for my flight. I actually wish this would become an option after this (whenever that might be)!
As we boarded the plane, there were several procedures put in place to make your safety a priority. Masks are required while flying, they give you sanitizer to wipe down your seat area and the middle seats are unoccupied. It actually felt very safe and we never felt like there was an issue. I honestly felt safer on the plane than I did at a grocery store! As we traveled there was no craziness with people being upset about wearing masks, everyone was calm and doing what was needed. They came by several times to check on everyone and offered another pack of drinks and hand sanitizing wipes if you chose.
Entertainment was no different than a normal flight. Download the Delta app and you can watch free movies and tv shows throughout the flight. The only difference was that there was no option for us to order anything to drink on the flight, which was kind of disappointing. I always love to start off the trip with a tasty beverage!
It’s interesting, depending on where you go in the US, the airports can change in their views on masks. We had a layover in Minnesota and they seemed a lot more lax on their views of masks from California. Either way, we stopped in for a beer at a bar. It was quite busy with everyone trying to grab a pint before their flight. As we sat down, there were many people without masks on and it really didn’t matter how close people were to each other. It seemed quite different from our experience at SFO.
The airport wasn’t notably different, as it didn’t seem like any extra measures were being taken from our standpoint. The airport was clean, just didn’t notice any enhancements at the time. Most restaurants were also open on our terminal, so not sure if they had any closures for the pandemic.
Grand Rapids Airport
Grand Rapids was quite simple to get out of the plane meet up with our party. No real issues with the experience. It’s a small airport so it was pretty easy to distance yourself from other people. We were overall quite happy with our initial experience on our flight with Delta and the airports.
Chicago O’Haire Airport
Our flight back home was with United and was out of the Chicago O’Haire Airport. The experience was quite different in comparison to our SFO departure. TSA had a bit of a personality issue as we worked our way through. They were either rude or disengaged in the whole situation. I was pretty disappointed with the level of service. It was a bit busier than SFO and it was understandable as O’Haire is one of the largest airports in the US. We worked our way past TSA and moved on to finding a coffee. There were lines everywhere! It seemed very chaotic with the amount of people and almost seemed a bit disorderly in comparison.
The restaurant situation was still limited similar to SFO. There were only a few restaurants open for us at the time. A Starbucks, Jamba Juice and a sit down restaurant with social distancing. I would say the bigger issue with very few restaurants open at United, was the fact that most of them were packed. Starbucks for example, had a line running all the way back through the terminal. I get that it was early morning and everyone needed their cup of joe for the day, but there was very little social distancing involved with people in the line.
The rough experience didn’t change much as we got ready to board our plane in the United airline. There was a lot of disorder in comparison to Delta. It felt like everyone was being pushed into the gate with no social distancing happening. They boarded based on the last seats boarding first and then moving their way up to the front. First class was able to board quickly, but if you are a priority boarding, you aren’t allowed to board earlier than anyone else based on COVID. As you sit down, it was quite similar to our Delta flight. They gave a bag of hand sanitizing wipes to wipe down your seat and also a water. They also did a good job of adjusting if there were too many people in a row from different parties. When we first got on the flight, we were unsure of if they were going to sit someone next to us as we had a middle seat and window. As the flight started to fill up, we saw that they were doing their best to move people around and social distance parties that were not together.
I will say that United had better snacks on their flight and they also gave an option for refreshments, which Delta did not. I was glad to see this, as a Bloody Mary mix or a Ginger Ale is usually my go to for being calm on a flight. Entertainment was also something that was unchanged with the experience. Download the United app and you can still watch your favorite movies and tv shows. I would also like to say that the team on the flight did a great job of servicing through the flight. They were very quick to ask for any trash and make sure that people were being sanitary.
This experience got me thinking on many levels. Depending on the airport and the airline, you will have a different experience. Delta seemed to deal with safety a bit better than United did, but United was a little more relaxed in their services on flight. Either way it was good to see that both airlines promote social distancing on the flights. We actually felt pretty safe on both flights and it felt good to finally travel again! We had a travel itch and I’m glad that we had the option to itch a little bit! It’s up to you on when you feel safe to travel, but we felt safe and needed to get away. Hopefully this helps a little bit in deciding on if you are ready to take to the air or stay to the ground! Stay safe everyone!