Traveling In a Pandemic – First Hand POV

This past Monday, I, as a paranoid COVID-19 freak, had to take an emergency impromptu plane ride from California to Wisconsin. My mom and I got a call late Sunday night that my grandmother needed to have open heart surgery and we had to fly out immediately. While COVID-19 most likely circulates around me everyday without my knowledge, something about traveling on an airplane surrounded by people from all over the world did not sit right with me. So, here is what flying during a worldwide pandemic was like first hand.

Upon arrival at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, I noticed something was odd. There were really no other passengers to be seen. Granted, John Wayne airport is usually less busy in comparison to other airports in Southern California such as LAX. However, it was still bizarre to see a completely empty airport. We arrived around 2:45pm and our flight was at 4:30pm. From the second we got there to the second we boarded the plane, we came across a total of eight other people in the airport with us. It was a very strange experience, given that the lines and tedious security checks are always dreaded when traveling. We were able to get our bags checked and make it through security in under 10 minutes. So why is the airport a complete ghost town?

Well, this odd encounter can be a result of many factors. The first reason for the absence of people could have been the paranoia surrounding airplanes and the ongoing controversy of traveling during this time. At this point, most people understand that going on vacation is very risky currently, considering how easily the virus can be carried. Although there are still some people that choose ignorance over safety, it seems as if this paranoia scared off a large amount of passengers. My mom and I had a flight from California to Phoenix, Arizona, followed by a connecting flight to Chicago, where our family meets us. Our first flight had 2 people in each row, meaning each middle seat was left empty. Each passenger was specifically placed to social distance and keep space between everybody on board. This particular flight felt very safe and made my mom and I feel more comfortable being on the airplane.

After my mom and I landed in Phoenix, we immediately left to find the gate for our next flight. When waiting for our specific section to board, I noticed that this plane ride was going to be a bit different. There were several large families and groups of people lined up at our gate waiting to board the plane. As soon as we got seated in our section, I noticed that the entire plane was full— even the middle seats. This was a shock to my mom and I, as our previous flight had been very mellow with much less passengers. We were seated 1-2 inches from each other with everybody coming in close contact. There were a large amount of people on the plane all crammed together with very little leg room or space to move. This flight did not feel COVID safe and we felt exposed.

In conclusion, both flights my mom and I boarded were very different from each other. Due to personal safety reasons, my family would not be traveling during a pandemic if it weren’t an emergency. However, in this case we had no choice. Our family needed us, and we had to be there for each other. After flying during these uncertain times, personally I would not recommend to travel during the pandemic. Although many safety precautions are taken it still did not feel 100% safe to my mom or myself. All we can do is take extra precautions for the safety of others as well as ourselves, and hope for the best with this dreadful journey of COVID-19.