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Flying Home: Air Travel in the Age of Covid


I wanted to write a blog about air travel because I had some questions for myself that I couldn't find the answer to.  I'm not a medical professional or advocating air travel at this time. There are some of us, though, that still need to fly because of family, property, studies, work or expiring visas.

These are my observations and I hope it helps someone. Stay safe! I was lucky enough to stay in New Brunswick, Canada with my wonderful girlfriend Vivie during this pandemic. We ordinarily would  have traveled  back and forth a few times, but with the closed border, I decided to stay for as long as I could. New Brunswick has handled Covid-19 so well so far and deserves a lot of credit. 

I flew back home to Jacksonville, Florida from Moncton, New Brunswick on July 31. I had stops in Toronto and Philadelphia.


I brought with me an N95 mask, two small bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and a lot of Lysol wipes in a plastic bag. And I wore my glasses, something I don't always do.  I also read the airlines' updates on their rules. (They differed from my experience.)


Lot normally full


Moncton to Toronto by Air Canada:

Security in Moncton was pretty much the same as usual. I was worried the metal clip in my mask would set off the metal detector. Security told me it wouldn't. I ended up being randomly screened after the metal detector anyway. They used a wand but I still was touched some by gloves. I wiped my hands with sanitizer and used the Lysol wipes to wipe any places they touched by mistake. Everyone  in the waiting room was supposed to be wearing masks but a lot were not. And some were  covering their mouths but not their noses. That casual atmosphere on mask wearing made me a bit nervous.


In Moncton, they asked everyone not temperature-checked already to come to the gate and get checked. I had no checked luggage so that was me. I did that, no problems, and waited for my flight in the back, away from those not wearing masks.

Boarding in zones was the same but with distance. When I got up to scan my ticket I was asked to remove my glasses and mask. That's the part that worried me because I didn't want to contaminate the mask with my hands by taking it off quickly. I did best I could with hand sanitizer.

The plane was packed.  Most wore masks on the plane. I didn't take mine off to eat or drink. Exiting was not very smart: Just the usual exit, everyone stood up at once waiting for door to open.


Toronto to Philadelphia:

I arrived in Toronto and had to take the train to Terminal 3 . No problems. The airport was crowded until I went to the U.S. departures area. There, I was the only one going through the Customs pre-clearance at that time, at least that I saw. They temperature-checked me as I entered. Same removing shoes bit as usual. I put hand sanitizer on before getting my luggage checked, and wiped everything with the Lysol wipes after.

Then it was off to the passport scanner. So strange to see rows of empty machines! Same questions as normal but they added one asking if I had been to any of a list of countries besides Canada. (I forget which ones.) Had to remove my mask for a photo. Then I went off to the passport control agent. Again no line. The agent was a little further away than usual and had  plexiglass between us. She was very nice and asked me again to remove my mask and also asked if  I had been anywhere else besides Canada on this trip.

Then I went to  board my American Airlines flight to Philadelphia.  Very few flights to the U.S. all day, so only one convenience store was open, and no restaurants. I had a quick drink while no one was around. American handed out a questionnaire asking if you were sick. Boarding was good but I had to remove my mask again! And the flight was crowded again. They did announce that those not wearing masks would be banned from future flights.

I again wore mask the entire trip . Deplaning was great.  They did it by rows, front to back.




Philadelphia to Jacksonville

Philadelphia to Jacksonville was also on American. Philadelphia had fewer people than usual, but still made distancing hard walking through airport. I went to two different restrooms. Walked out of the first because it was too crowded. At the gate, no removal of mask or questionnaire on boarding. Plane was not crowded but I did have someone next to me. Deplaning was good again, a few rows at a time. Exiting Jacksonville was a  breeze, as there were few people in the airport. I had my son pick me up instead of getting an Uber as I usually do. 



Glad I brought the N95 mask.  The KN95 over-the-ear models looked good as well but I've read a lot are defective. I really was glad I had a mask that filtered, but taking the mask off and on so many times made me nervous. Not sure I was always perfect with putting sanitizer on my hands before I removed it, but I tried.

Things also weren't as sanitized as I thought they would be, so the Lysol wipes helped my state of mind. I wiped down bags, seats and clothes. This travel experience felt like  a medical procedure and I won't fly for a pleasure trip just yet. My flights didn't have in-service drinks or meals but Air Canada did hand out a pack with water. I didn't eat and had very little to drink my whole trip and felt safer doing that.  I couldn't avoid the two connections but I'd recommend a non stop when possible.

There have been a lot of heroes  treating Covid-19 and the essential workers serving us all. I have been  disappointed it has brought so much division in the world. And it's one thing to live far away from loved ones but another to not be able to visit if you need to. 


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