I took a flight during the quarantine to get first hand experience on what it's like to fly in October, during which I learned how to get free beer.
With the ever changing rules and regulations for traveling during the pandemic, it’s difficult to get a straight and accurate answer as to what to expect, so I decided to take a flight so I could report back with some first hand experiences.
Being a career traveler, and going longer without a flight since I could remember, I booked an October flight for my wife and I to visit Portland, Oregon, one of the most affordable destinations (that I actually wanted to visit) with a direct flight from Burbank Airport. If I have to explain why I chose not to fly out of LAX, then you haven’t flown out of LAX.
Burbank Airport was a veritable ghost town. We didn't checking bags, enabling us to bypass checkin and head directly to TSA. There we were met with no line and a personable TSA agent reaching for our ID’s with her gloved hand through a four inch hole in a giant pane of plexiglass. Getting from the entrance of the airport to our gate took all of three minutes, an indication of both the amount of travelers and how puny BUR actually is.
As we arrived at our Alaska Airlines gate, we were met with a group of about 60 masked people, safely distanced by stickers on intermittent seats reminding us not to sit next to anyone not in our group.
When booking our flight, I put myself in 16A and my wife in 15A, understanding that we would each have a seat open next to us (I need my elbow room, woman!). I confirmed with the gate agent that strangers would not be placed in the seat next to us. She said that would usually be the case, but since the flight filled up a bit more, the airline put us next to each other since we booked together. (I love being close to you, honey)
During the pre-flight announcements we were repeatedly reminded that wearing masks is required by law and we were told that they were not taking payments, so “cocktails” would not be available on the flight. Once the pilot told us that we reached our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet (information that I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to do with), it was announced that the drink cart would be coming through the cabin, which Mel and I were surprised by. The only stipulation, that most people abided by, was that you were not to take off your mask to drink your beverage until everyone in your row was served and the flight attendant had moved on to the next row.
I asked our flight attendant when they expected to serve alcohol again. She spoke softly through her mask and that that beer and wine are still available, but since they are not taking payments (to maintain a two-way touches experience), beer and wine are free and added “But you can understand why we don’t make that announcement”.
Note: If you’re hashing up a plan where you slowly sip your drink for the duration of the the flight, so that you don’t have to wear your mask, the guy sitting across the aisle beat from us you to it. He milked that bag of chips and Diet Coke for all he could, dining for a full hour of our two hour trip.
PDX was much busier than BUR. While nine out of ten gates were empty, people were peppered randomly throughout the closed gates hunched over on their electronic devices. Every restaurant was open, with every other table removed, and the food court areas had mask-less people sitting, eating and chatting.
We bypassed baggage claim and headed for the rental car counters. There was only one other person in the entire car rental lobby. After I passed on the insurance, I asked how much slower things are with rental cars. He said that it’s busier than it was in June, where he’d only rent out two cars per day, but a quarter of what it was a year ago.
As we checked into the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, talking the clerk though plexiglass, we were told that our room would not be serviced during our three night stay. If we want something, text them, and they’ll have someone leave it outside our door. We took a sanitized key from a stack on the counter, put it in that electric box with a keypad that used to be reserved for employees, and had our first touch-less check in experience. Was it the first of many? Only time will tell.