Flying During COVID
|My personal experience flying during COVID.
Before we jump on into it… I do want to highlight the risks taken when flying. COVID is real and this blog is in no way intended to discredit the seriousness of this virus. Please be a cognitive human and proceed with caution around any other humans….I didn’t think we needed to say anything but the Brads and Karens out there in the world seem to misunderstand. Wear a mask, buy a mini hand sanitizer… or 12, wash your hands and be a nice, clean person dammit.
Okay so now that that is off my chest…phew… let’s get into it.
Planning for the trip
Two of my friends from college were getting married a few weekends ago. With the current pandemic, we weren’t sure how it was going to play out. If we needed to buy plane tickets, did we have to quarantine before or after, was California airports letting people back in after flying out? A lot of unknown came with planning a trip home for this wedding. My boyfriend, Elijah, was in the wedding. They had to call off their bachelor party in Vegas a few weeks prior. He bought a ticket from San Diego to Vegas through Frontier. They cancelled his flights and they ended up not being able to go. Elijah received a flight voucher but no money back. This is nice but tickets from San Diego to Vegas are around 30-50 bucks – nothing expensive – but definitely would have preferred a money back option. He also had only a few days to book another flight using his voucher, otherwise it was money lost.
Knowing all this and being a complete control freak, I started to research. I ended up choosing to go with Southwest Airlines. I flew Southwest, for multiple reasons. See below…
Southwest has its own terminal in the San Diego Airport.
Aka my home airport.
Less people, less COVID.
Ticket options – they have three types of tickets for purchase.
Their “Wanna Get Away” tickets are non-refundable but have zero cancellation or change fees. You can cancel your flight up to 10 minutes to departure and still receive your money in a voucher form to reuse for another ticket in the future. Now with COVID they are extending their vouchers for up to 2 YEARS, normally 1 year, after the cancellation date…. crazy and unmatched.
We pushed our return flights back a day and SAVED MONEY with no fees.
We tried to book through American Airlines who also has a good COVID cancellation policy but for some reason our flights kept on getting refunded and cancelled without notice?? Not sure what was going on there but thankful it led us to Southwest.
Their “Anytime” tickets are refundable up to 10 minutes before flight departure. Also, say you miss your flight, free of charge they will put you on a standby list for the day. Meaning you can get a seat on any flight with available seats to your destination free of charge. FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ALWAYS LATE TO THE AIRPORT THIS IS A GREAT THING. Cough cough me.
Their “Business Select” tickets are refundable up to 10 minutes before flight departure. You get the stand by perk, preferred boarding (you’ll be in one of the first boarding groups… I explain the groups later), a free premium drink during the flight, Fly By security and priority lanes (skip lines at check-in and security) and more.
Each level of ticket comes with certain rewards points. That is a whole other blog in itself. I’ll get to it eventually. For now take a peep at their ticket breakdown here
All Southwest tickets come with TWO free checked bag and a carry on.
The average checked baggage cost is $30 for one and $45-50 for two. Instant savings and no hassle.
I swore off the worst airline on the plant… cough cough Spirit Airlines….because at the end of the day with triple the hassle and last minute fees you end up paying the same amount.
STORY TIME (If you don’t care about Spirit horror stories – keep scrolling)
Last year I was flying back to San Diego the day after Christmas. Stupid, I know. I needed to get back for work so I didn’t have to use my days off (oh the corporate rat race – don’t miss that). I arrived to the Detroit airport 3 HOURS EARLY. I had to wait in the longest security line I think I have ever seen and my flight was one of the first to leave for the day. Going through the line, I quickly realized I was not going to make my boarding time if I had to wait. I asked the security guard, VERY KINDLY and obviously concerned, what to do and if there is anything that would help this process go quicker, he then told me I had to ask everyone in line if I could cut them to make my flight as I literally watched my flight board in the security line and he was just chillin’ on his phone. Thanks for the help, lol. Obviously I missed the boarding. I make it to my gate that is two steps from security and the Spirit flight attendant closed the doors in my face saying “You need to get here earlier, we can’t help you.” Little did she know I was at the airport at 3 AM that morning. She said I couldn’t get my money back, and the next flight she could find for me would be NEXT WEEK. Again. LOL, THANKS FOR THE HELP. I even asked why she didn’t call my name over the intercom and she said, “I couldn’t pronounce it.” UM WHAT?!? A heaven sent Pilot overheard my struggles, called the Spirit lady out for being a jerk and HE ended up finding another flight I could get on in 2 hours. The flight was $800 dollars and with another carrier but I’LL TAKE IT! Spirit is named spirit because it takes the spirit out of it travelers. JK, I’m just still heated.
Time to Fly
When we arrived at the San Diego International Airport, in a very clean Uber, we walked in the Southwest Terminal and were immediately greeted by the baggage check concierge. Not sure if that was because we arrived at the butt of dawn at 4:30 A.M. – because thanks Spirit for that missed flight PTSD- or if it is because they are doing some sort of contactless service. I’m going with the first option because the check in/bag tag Kiosks were just being turned on by the airport employees.
We got through the baggage check and security in about a total of 30 minutes. I’ll take it. Thanks COVID.
We got to our gate extremely early but we didn’t mind since there was a breakfast place serving coffee and breakfast burritos. So we munched and waited.
Finally it was our turn to board. The boarding process on Southwest planes are a tad different than other airlines due to the fact they have an open seating policy. This means you do not get assigned a seat and row number per se but you do get assigned a boarding number.
Adjusting with COVID and to aid with social distancing this is what Southwest did that impressed me…
They boarded the flight in groups of ten based off of your boarding number/class.
They had clearly marked lines where to stand for social distancing while boarding.
They had touchless boarding services. This is nothing new but the flight attendant didn’t touch anyone’s boarding passes when scanning them to get through the tunnel.
Every middle seat was left empty, unless you needed it to sit with your family. They do not book the planes in full capacity to help aid this type of seating.
Again, for all the Brads and Karens in the back, masks were necessary the ENTIRE TRIP. Meaning in our Uber, in the airport, boarding our plane, sitting on the plane, walking about the plane, exiting the plane, baggage claim…you get the point. Don’t be a noob and put one on. Nobody likes it. The more you resist the longer we have to wear the damn things!
During the flight we did not get food and drink service but they did come around with snack bags and waters for everyone on the plane.
Wear a mask and then you can have your wine or Coke, Karen.
Not only am I impressed with the cleanliness and hospitality of Southwest Airlines, I truly think they did a great job adjusting to the new COVID normal. To learn more on their COVID policies visit their COVID page on their website.
Southwest just gained a loyal traveler.
Travel safe. Do your research. Be a good human. Life goes on and will continue to go on even with a new normal.
** We did not get sick, but we did decide to self quarantine after returning to be safe and keep our friends safe.