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Who would have thought that flying on a plane would be so controversial in 2020? Well, it is. Even Dr. Fauci won’t get on a flight right now.
For many Americans, road trip vacations are the only trips with an acceptable risk. For my family, I mostly agree. But earlier this summer, I made an exception.
Why Did I Fly?
My elderly mother lives in another state in a retirement home. Since March, the residents have been quarantined in their rooms, per state requirements. See When Will I See Her Again.
My mom has Alzheimer’s/Dementia, and her health has declined significantly since the isolation started. It’s not just her; many elderly people have deteriorated during the quarantine.
When I received an email that the state was going to start allowing controlled outdoor visits with masks and 6 feet of distance between people, I jumped at the chance. Since the experts predict that Covid-19 could get worse during the fall/winter, I knew that my window to see my mom could be short. Every fiber of my being was telling me we needed to go, and go now.
After much discussion and thought, we decided that driving wasn’t the best idea due to rest stops and additional hotels. I booked flights for my family of five.
Here are my observations from my summer trip.
People Don’t Know How to Wear Masks Correctly (or They Choose Not To)
I’m sure you’ve seen people at the grocery store with their masks hanging down by their chin or over just their mouth and not nose. I assumed that when at an airport or on an airplane, people would wear masks correctly. Wrong! We saw a lot of noses. That’s my pet peeve.
AA Is Not the Best, Nor the Worst
I knew that AA was filling every seat on its flights, and our flights were no exception. Other airlines, like Delta and Southwest, are still keeping middle seats open. But the number of flights to Denver was lower than normal, and beggars can’t be choosers. So we went with AA.
Flight attendants on AA did announce over the speaker several times that masks must be worn over the nose and mouth. However, they did not enforce this.
AA did not serve drinks or snacks. But, I actually liked that. Fewer people were walking the aisles.
The best part of flying on AA was disembarking the plane. Flights attendants announced that everyone should remain seated until it was time for their row to get off. To my surprise, people complied with that. If only people would disembark like that forever!
Rental Car Pickup Was Riskier than the Flights?
When I travel to Denver, I typically use the light rail and Uber to get around. We’ve had bad experiences renting a car in Denver. The prices are absolutely insane.
But for this trip, we figured it would be safer to rent a car to limit our exposure to other people in enclosed spaces. I think we would have been safer taking Uber.
It turns out that everybody and their brother was vacationing in Colorado at the same time. We waited over 2 hours in a line to pick up the car, inside a building where people were wearing masks incorrectly. My kids and I waited outside, but still in a crowd of people with masks.
At leasts airplanes have HEPA filters. I’m sure this rental car waiting room did not.
And yes, we exhausted all other rental car options. We were stuck.
We CAN Wear Our Masks for Long Stretches
Before this flight, I was very nervous about wearing a mask at the airport and during the entire flight. I am slightly claustrophobic (see this post). But, I practiced wearing a mask for longer stretches before this trip.
I was fine. Even when what I thought would be a 4-hour stretch with a mask turned out to be a 7-hour stretch, it was fine. My kids did fine, too.
The only time it wasn’t as fine was when I walked up a flight of stairs. I’m blaming it on the altitude.
Nobody Wants to Be Around a Flyer
Depending on which Covid risk chart you reference, flying is listed as a higher risk activity. This chart ranks it similar in risk to getting a haircut, eating inside a restaurant and playing basketball/football. Flying is supposedly less risky than going to a gym or amusement park or attending a large religious service.
However, people and places assign it a much higher risk. When I took my kids to the dentist, a pre-arrival survey asked whether we had flown on an airplane within the past 2 weeks. But, it didn’t ask about attending a wedding, eating at a restaurant or playing contact sports.
I’m not advocating for people to take unnecessary flights right now. I’m also not shaming those folks who choose to take the risk.
But for my family’s particular situation, I’m glad we took the trip. My mom was happy to see us, and we brought her joy in the short one hour we got to visit with her. While she may have forgotten our names and roles, we did look familiar to her. If we had waited until a later date, we might have missed the opportunity for her to recognize us as her family.
Unfortunately, her retirement home just reported a Covid case within the building, and all visits are now prohibited. The window to visit her turned out to be open for just six weeks.
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.