What It’s Like to Fly During the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic

Let’s face it, the quarantine established to slow the growth of Covid-19 changed a lot of people’s plans. For us it meant a missed cruise, a cancelled trip to an all-inclusive in Mexico, and a no-go for my 40th birthday trip across the Midwest that we were calling “The Roller Coaster Tour.” But since many of the restrictions are now lifted we decided to take to the air again to head to a house near Scottsdale, Arizona that had a pool. We would be staying “safer-at-home,” but in a better home with an enormous pool.

By Anthony Sarlo
June 11, 2020

Since Phoenix is about a 12 hour drive for us, we chose to fly instead. We booked a roundtrip flight to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport from DIA for $77 dollars a person. This was our experience flying the friendly (but not so crowded) skies.

Checking-In for the Flight

To save money, I very rarely purchase seats when flying. 99% of the time, we have all been able to sit together. This is usually because I do online check-in the moment my 24-hour window opens. Perhaps it was because I was rusty on my travel game, but I forgot until half the day passed. We were 12 hours away from fly time and I hadn’t checked in online. I was nervous that we would be spread out or all in the back of the plane, but when the seat assignments showed we had the entire row 7, I knew this would be a fairly empty flight.

When we arrived at the airport, every passenger was directed to kiosks to print their own boarding passes. After using the first kiosk, we made our way to a second kiosk to print baggage stickers and then put them on ourselves. We then waited in line that were marked quite hilariously with little green x’s for social distancing. Everyone I saw stayed mostly near their mark. Finally we got to the desk and dropped off the bags with an attendant who was wearing his mask only around his mouth… sigh.

Through Security and to the Terminal

Denver International Airport requires everyone to be wearing a mask once they enter the doors. For the most part, people were complying. We wore these elastic pull up coverings and they were comfortable. We were able to keep them on from the moment we entered DIA to the time we left Sky Harbor without much trouble. We did slip them down to take a drink or eat some snacks that we brought. DIA also installed a bunch of hand sanitizer stations around to keep hands clean.

The security line was almost entirely empty. We have TSA Precheck and they were open, but it didn’t save us any time as anyone was able to just walk straight to the front and get screened without a wait. It really was a ghost town and not something I think I’ve ever seen at this airport.

We left from Terminal A, so after taking the train we arrived quickly. The chairs at all the restaurants had been picked up and replaced with signs stating that the food court is closed. Most of the restaurants and all of the bars were not open when we arrived. The only thing open was McDonald’s and Panda Express. If you’ve ever been to DIA you know how long the McDonald’s line can get, but there were only three folks waiting.

The Gate and Getting on the Plane

Usually it is a challenge to find seats together when waiting for your plane to depart. Not this time! There was so much space. Most folks settled in and kept their masks on while waiting, while some did not. Everyone did do their best to keep 6 feet apart, at least.

When boarding they did not use the Zones that Frontier normally uses. Instead the boarded from the back of the plane to the front. If you ask me, that makes more sense anyway. We were in the last segment of seats to board. Instead of handing your boarding pass to a gate agent they have you scan your own now. And with that we settled in and were ready to go.

The Plane Ride

Strangely, they had filled in every one of the seats in the first seven rows of the plane. Behind us was a different story as the rest of the cabin was at about 40% capacity. Some people were allowed to move back to spread things out, but there was some conversation about which rows to fill as they needed to, “balance the plane.” I didn’t even know that was a thing, but I’m sure glad they got it figured out.

This was the view from row 7 to the back of the plane

Perhaps because the plane was less full we actually left early! The voice on the PA informed us of the safety and cleaning procedures that were undertaken to ensure the airplane was clean and then let us know that there would be no food and beverage or snack service. That is an important thing to keep in mind if you are used to having something. We knew about this and brought on our own drinks and snacks.

The flight itself was a quick one. From wheels up to wheels down was short of an hour and a half. During the flight, we didn’t feel bothered by keeping our masks on, but there was a family in front of us that pretty much had theirs off the entire flight. Due to our early departure, we actually arrived in the terminal about 25 minutes ahead of schedule.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

We deplaned and headed to pick up our baggage. The first thing I noticed was how many fewer people were wearing masks. I don’t mean that the masks were pulled down. I mean that they didn’t even have masks! There were signs everywhere indicating they were mandatory, but that had little effect.

Waiting for bags at Sky Harbor

After getting out of the airport, we took a shuttle to the car rental center. We jumped in our mini-van and made a beeline to downtown Scottsdale. We quickly found some cold beers and celebrated that we were finally back in our happy place… on VACATION!

Cold beers at “Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers.” Yes… that’s really the name of the restaurant!

We had a great time in Phoenix. It is a really cool city (or should I say series of cities) with a bunch of outdoor activities. We mostly stayed in our VRBO rental and made this cool music video. Overall, it was a good time and we are looking forward to travelling again soon. Let me know what your experience was or what is keeping you from taking off on your own adventure in the comments below.

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