What it’s like to fly during a pandemic

CONFESSIONS OF A COLLEGE PARK MOM

 

Typically in August, I share tips and tricks for simplifying morning routines or saving money on school supplies. This year, I am sharing my experience flying on an airplane dressed like a nuclear engineer during a worldwide pandemic. Wouldn’t have seen that one coming a year ago!

Ten and Eight (their names, not their ages, but it’s easier this way) were wrapping up the best summer ever at my parents’ house. I had no hesitation sending them on their way in June when Mom and Dad came to get them for a road trip to Upstate NY. After months of no school and cancelled events, an old-fashioned summer of hiking, pond-swimming and fort-building was exactly what they needed.

We wrestled with whether to drive or fly to go get them. Ultimately, we decided there would be far less exposure on a two-hour flight from a small airport than a two-day drive with restaurants and a hotel, so I booked a quick Friday – Monday trip. Twelve got to do this last year, so he was home with us, living the only-child life he hadn’t gotten to enjoy in a decade. As the month went on, though, restrictions were getting tighter, and New York had a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone coming into the state for more than 24 hours, so we changed our plans to do it all in one morning.

 

I set the alarm for 3:45 a.m. to allow for any extra time new procedures might take. Since Twelve and I didn’t need to pack anything, and I’d heard there would be no snacks on the flight, I filled my favorite mom-sized tote bag with enough fun-sized bags for fifty people. When in doubt, pack snacks.

Upon arrival, I stared blankly at the “ticketless parking” machine when we entered the garage. Apparently, it was just going to know who I was and how long I’d been there — like something from “The Jetsons.” We don’t leave our much house during this safer-at-home time, and sometimes it feels like waking up from a long coma.

Ten minutes later, the TSA agent was asking me if I had any food items, so I emptied my stockpile into an empty bin. Noticing the sheer volume, he politely asked me to refrain from selling them on the plane.

 

I’d spent the week worrying about adequate room to distance passengers, but the flight attendants spaced all 20 of us out beautifully and offered everyone a safety kit with a mask, hand wipes and gloves. I wondered whether 20 tickets could cover the price of gas, or maybe they knew exactly how long it could run on fumes like I used to do in high school.

We sat nervously until the captain came on the loudspeaker to explain how the airplane’s filtration system worked. For the next two hours, I read a book while Twelve took pictures out the window. It was lovely.

Twelve spotted his brothers and grandparents waving from the window as we taxied in toward the Elmira airport. We had just enough time to give everyone a hug, cry a few tears for our lost weekend together and line back up to come home. The process couldn’t have been smoother.

 

I’d spent so much time worrying about COVID-19 that, for the first time ever, I didn’t secretly panic whenever we hit minor turbulence. I was just too spent.

Another nice flight back.

The magic parking machine let us out, and we were back home safe by 11:30 a.m., knowing we’d need to lay low for a couple of weeks. Allegiant Airlines had done a beautiful job. And I guess everything you read on the internet isn’t true … They totally had snacks!

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