When I decided to break free from my house after three months of hard-core quarantine, I didn’t take the decision lightly—especially since I had planned to visit my 68-year-old dad in Riverside, California. Deciding to fly from Nashville to California was a serious choice that I couldn’t take lightly.
My dad was 100% supportive and wanted me to stay with him for a while, which made the decision a little easier. However, getting on a plane not only put me at risk but it was putting my dad and his wife at risk as well. Going from my airplane travel straight to their house could not allow me to be 100% sure that I would not bring the virus into their home, their bodies.
I booked my one-way flight with Southwest Airlines for $100 and scheduled to fly into the Ontario, CA airport. Southwest had stated they would have all middle seats opened throughout July 2020, so that made me feel at ease.
The day of my flight, I arrived at the airport in full PPE gear—face mask, gloves, hand sanitizer (clipped to my purse), and inside of my purse I had my “Erica James Travel Airplane Kit” that I created – face mask, tissues, hand sanitizer, wipes, and an eye mask. I was prepared!
I went to the Southwest Airlines kiosk, I put my plastic gloves on and proceeded to use the touch-screen to check myself in, print my boarding pass, and print my luggage tags. After everything printed and I added my luggage tag, I proceeded to the counter to drop off my luggage. Nothing different from all the other times that I have flown except, we were all in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear.
After dropping off my luggage, I proceeded to the TSA pre-check, where I had to remove my mask from my face for the agent to match my face to my photo identification. After the agent verified my identity, I put my mask back on my face and proceeded through security which was business as usual. Once I cleared security, I headed to my gate, where I sat and waited to board the flight.
While sitting at my gate and looking around at all the other travelers, I was amazed at what we were all experiencing in this world by all wearing masks—well, almost everyone. I was just as amazed at the travelers that were not wearing masks. It was really shocking to me. After what we have all learned and after so many deaths, there are still people that choose not to wear a mask in public places.
Finally, Southwest agents began to board my flight but only ten people at a time. The agents had to make this announcement several times and get a little forceful for the protection of us all because there were still passengers that were crowding the boarding door area before their number was called. The Southwest agents had to make several announcements to back away, distance yourselves, and only come up when your number is called. Then, they proceeded with groups of ten people at a time to get on the plane.
As I stepped onto the plane, flight attendants reminded me that I could sit anywhere, as this is Southwest’s policy of first come first seat, but I was not to sit in a middle seat. The only exception to sitting in the middle seat was if you were traveling as a family and there were more than two of you. Otherwise, window or aisle seats were your options. This choice is a traveler’s dream—I think it is safe to say that we all want the middle seat left open under different circumstances as well.
I found an empty row and went straight for the window seat to reduce my interaction with the numerous passengers passing me as they went down the aisle. I wiped down my tray table, the back of the seat in front of me, my seat, my armrest, and the windows and window shade with my Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Wipes. I traveled with these wipes before COVID-19 because I cruised a lot and I read that they were excellent against the Norovirus, so these are my “go-to” wipes. After cleaning my area, I settled into my seat and felt extremely comfortable on the flight.
I would like to note that the drink service was extremely limited. Flight attendants offered us a snack mix and water. Nothing additional. That was fine with me because I had brought my travel cup, my “Erica James Travel Straw Kit” and a bottle of water. I was good to go!
The plane ride was a success—I never felt uncomfortable. I felt Southwest did everything possible to keep everyone at a safe, social distance, and the flight was less stressful than my trips to the grocery store.