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Flying Domestically

This week has been a blur. We had a friend of the family pass away last week and went up to Illinois for the funeral. We flew up on Tuesday afternoon and I got back yesterday. A very quick trip there and back.

The hardest part of flying this past week (next to having a middle seat on a small airplane) was that masks were required from the time we parked our car until we left the destination airport. I’m going to break down what we experienced while traveling to and from Illinois this past week.

We flew out of Orlando International Airport. When we first got to the airport, we went to park and found out that the North parking lot was closed. It said to go to the South parking lot but I figured the West parking lot was closed. After driving to the West parking lot, we learned that they were doing Covid testing there and the lot was closed. Off to the South parking
lot we went.

At the South parking lot, we finally got parked and went to board the bus. Before we got to the bus the driver indicated to us that we needed to have masks on. We pulled them out and put them on before getting on the bus. There were a couple of other people on the bus and some of them had as many as three masks on. I am not sure how they were able to breathe.

We only had one bag to check but there were several other passengers with large suitcases. As we got to the first terminal, the driver pulled over and let people off. Usually, if there are older travelers the driver will help them with their bags. I am assuming one social distancing item for the drivers is that they don’t handle guest’s luggage. The guests had to get their own luggage off the bus.

Our bus came up to our terminal and we exited, getting our own luggage. We went into the terminal where wearing masks was required as well. There was no one in the check-in line so we decided to do that instead of the self-baggage check. At the counter they asked for our driver’s license and checked our luggage just like any other time we went to the airport.

Now off to the security checkpoint. There were signs here to social distance and some people in the line did, but for the most part it seemed like everyone was closer than 6 feet to the person in front of them. When we got to the TSA officer, we handed him our ID and held our boarding passes up to the scanner. He didn’t ask us to pull down our masks to see our faces, but on our return from Illinois, the TSA office there did ask us to pull down the masks. After we got past this point, everything was business as usual until we were ready to board the plane.

First up was the call for Zone One. This was the only zone that was called from Frontier Airlines. After Zone One they started calling people by their row numbers (ex: Rows 25 through 30). This was our first time on Frontier in a long time so I am not sure if that is how they normally do it. When they called our row, we got in line and one of the Frontier employees walked the line taking everyone’s temperature. We passed our temperature test and moved to the gate. The gate employee asked us to place our pass on the scanner and then welcomed us. Everyone socially distanced between the gate and getting to their seat. I find this a little ironic being everyone is going to be sitting shoulder to shoulder for the next two and a half hours.

We were reminded before getting on the plane that masks were required for the entire flight except when eating or drinking.

Once we got to our seats, we settled in. The plane was almost filled to capacity. I only noticed four empty seats on the plane. In our row a stranger sat by the window, I was in the middle, and my wife had the aisle seat.

Before we took off the pilot came on and told us about the air recycling system and how it cleans and recycles all the air in the cabin every few minutes. We were also informed that because of Covid regulations there would be limited service on the flight. They would have bottled water available for purchase, but nothing else.

The rest of the flight was uneventful. Once we landed in Illinois, we had to keep our masks on while we went to get our rental car and pick up our luggage at the baggage return.

This next part came as a surprise to me, and I am not sure if it is just mismanagement or because there needs to be such a quick turnover of cars. Let me start by backing up a little to the night before our trip…

We requested a mini-van from the car rental company. We got a call the night before our flight at about 8:00 pm informing us that the rental car company would not have our mini-van. I asked about another car. Usually, they will substitute the car for something else if they don’t have it. They told me that they didn’t have any cars on the lot at that time, we would have to wait until we got there the next day to see what they had. They were expecting cars to come back around 11:00 am the next day.

When we got to the rental counter, they had two options for us, a Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Chevy Equinox. We chose the Jeep and took the keys. This is where the surprise comes in…when we got to the car, the Jeep and Equinox were side by side and the outsides were filthy. Granted there was some snow and salt on the ground but I would have expected them to clean the cars before giving them out. The inside was pretty clean but it looked like it was maybe only wiped down with a Clorox wipe before being given to us. They should have done a more thorough cleaning because of Covid, but I don’t know if it was just that they didn’t have time or if the employees aren’t supposed to take the risks. I also don’t know how to compare this to anywhere else because this is the first rental car I have had since Covid started.

The rest of our stay in Illinois was as expected. We stayed with family instead of a hotel. Everywhere we went we needed to wear our masks. Restaurants were open with inside seating. We went to a grocery store and a SAM’s big box store while we were there. Everything was pretty much the same as it is here in Florida.

The return flight was a mirror of the trip up there.

Overall, flying right now wasn’t as bad as I expected it would be. The major takeaways are:

  • Masks are required from the time you get to the airport until you leave the airport.
  • There is no food or beverage service on the planes except for water.
  • I hope the rental car situation was a unique situation and not common practice everywhere.

We are heading to Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks for Spring Break and tour Penn State with our son. I will be curious as to how traveling then will compare to now. One thing that is on my mind is that Pennsylvania is requiring a negative Covid test before traveling there. I am hoping that changes by the time we travel but we will have to wait and see. From speaking to my sisters and other friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I think it is going to be very different from our Illinois trip.