A few days ago, while traveling home, I encountered a different traveling experience than my last in pre-pandemic times. The experience was surreal and refreshing at the same time, does that make sense? Let me explain: surreal because most public spaces in the airports were closed or had limited capacity and refreshing because almost everyone was wearing coverings and being cautious with one another.
Let’s begin. Upon entering Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma city, the signs and workers informed me that EVERYONE was required to wear masks at all times while in the airport and airplane unless they happen to be eating or drinking. I had a mask on and another in my pocket already…coronavirus has prepared me for such things.
Customers are given the option to use “touchless” check in on the kiosks. Bags are dropped, again touchless, with an agent. This is the most preferred method as it limits interaction between staff and passengers.
If you are like me, not meaning on crutches, and need to go to the check in counter, there is a Plexiglass divider between the agents and passengers. The agents wore masks and were super friendly. I think more so than before COVID…they even commented about my ATLiens jacket. If any of you do not get that reference, please keep it to yourself as I already feel old.
At the gate, there was the same plexiglass as the check in counter. During my 30 minutes or so at the gate, the agents made numerous announcements about the wear of face masks. Once thing that particularly stood out was the type of masks allowed. The agent stated that masks with any openings (zippers, filters, “bigger than normal” breathing holes, etc) were not allowed. I thought this would have gone without saying because why wear a mask with holes in it? I digress…
Although I did not take a picture because of the crutches, the jet bridge had lines on the walls to ensure passengers maintained social distancing in the poorly ventilated space. Upon entering the aircraft, the flight attendant (on the DFW segment) handed out one sanitizing wipe to each passenger.
This was to wipe down any surface the passenger might come in contact with. I feel as if there should have been more wipes given or none at all. As a general rule, I feel all passengers should carry items to sanitize their seat. The flight attendant also made an announcement about the wear of masks on the flight. It was the same announcement from the terminal.
At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the standards and messaging were the same. There was substantial crowding in Satellite Terminal E, which could not be prevented due to the gate set up.
The agents did, however, have the same Plexiglass for another layer of separation between themselves and passengers.
My flight to Dallas was operated by Mesa Airlines doing business as American Eagle, while my flight to Abilene was operated by Envoy Air doing business as American Eagle. The only difference between the two flights was one enforced social distancing, while the other did not. Envoy ensured the first few two rows were blocked on Embraer ERJ-140 to ensure the safety of the lone flight attendant since the galley is adjacent to rows one and two.
Additionally, the flight was at approximately 25-35% capacity. This could be due to the ongoing pandemic or not too many people wanting to visit the wonderful little town of Abilene. Upon landing in Abilene, the flight attendant announced that three rows would deplane at a time and instructed customers to stay seated until the row ahead of them left.
I truly felt safe all day. The other passengers were mostly respectful/mindful of others. The flight operated by Envoy went above and beyond, in my option, by giving passengers a ton more room than what I am accustomed to on a regional flight. All in all, I am excited to be in the sky again, it has been a long 10 months.