Flying After COVID-19

In 2001, I flew a trip about 10 days after 9/11, during the first week that commercial flights resumed, going from Dallas to Traverse City Michigan, via Chicago O’Hare. The security lines were long, very long and slow. Restaurants in O’Hare served only finger food, or things that could be eaten with a plastic spoon. Serrated plastic knives were considered possible weapons. A man in front of me at Security in Traverse City was instructed to break off the little 1″ blade inside his nail clippers, if he wanted to take them on the plane. People were afraid to fly.

Some of the Starbucks are closed. With the low number of travelers, it makes sense.

Today, I took my first plane trip since early March. I fly at lot of short hops for work, but this time I needed to get home and check on my house, since I’m working at a remote location for a few months. I wore my mask (many didn’t until they entered a jetway). I made the following observations while waiting at the Houston Bush International Airport (IAH) this Memorial Day afternoon.

First, it’s very empty for a holiday weekend. On my flight here, and the return light, the airplane is about half full, with people mostly spaced out. UNited is doing a decent job here, and I don’t compliment United lightly (although, having flown them for so long, I’ve been able to make some very nice international flights using my points, so there’s that). They are boarding from the back of the plane, which is actually faster, but it also means that sitting near the front no longer guarantees me a place for my small carryon. I know, first world problems.

Of the dozen or so CIBO Express kiosks, most looked like this.

Most of the retail shops in the airport are closed, with little signs explaining they won’t reopen until they feel it’s safe for their employees. The exceptions I noticed were the newsstand type places, that sell snacks, magazines and books, drinks, and the like. In the terminal I’m in, there are two Dufry duty free shops; one is closed. That seems to be common – when a business has multiple stores in the airport, only one is open: Starbucks, the ubiquitous CIBO Express kiosks, a grab-and-go deli.

The concourse is full of small bars that run down the concourse, replacing the moving walkways that used to be in every terminal. Most of them look like this right now. Except that one barbecue place.

(My coffee just went down the wrong pipe and I cough. Everyone looks at me, even those without a mask).

One large bar/restaurant, which runs down the middle of the concourse, is full. Patrons sit along the bar, some with a chair spacing between them, some sitting side by side. The bartender is mask free, as is the man at the kitchen end, who is cooking/serving the food. (Q, near gate E-2, in case you care). The counter-service restaurants are a mix – some open, some firmly closed. I was surprised to see Subway’s closed. Other than the BBQ/bar, everyone working seems to be wearing a mask, which I’m glad to see.

Hey, and we appreciate you!

I won’t resume traveling on a regular basis, as my employer is wisely limiting it for both health and financial reasons. With sensible precautions and a package of bleach wipes, I don’t feel in danger, but I wouldn’t make it a frequent occurrence. Besides, where would I go that’s not also closed down?



Categories: Travel

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4 replies

  1. Great review. Did anyone give you the IAH rules ahead of time? If so, were you required to wear a face covering or did you just choose to do so? If required, was there any attempt to enforce the rules and by whom? My interest is because I was asked just last week if I would be willing to return to work at IAH with Bunker, under what conditions, what my concerns were, and what suggestions I would have for making IAH a safe place for Bunker and me. I basically said I wouldn’t go back until there is a vaccine. There is no way Bunker and I can administer therapy dog services without violating social distancing and we aren’t essential to airport travel.

    • The airlines have sent several emails saying that face coverings were required in the planes. Apparently not the rules for the airport, though, as a lot of people, including contractors (restaurants) were not wearing anything. Cleaning people were, as were the airline staff.

  2. Thanks for the update.

  3. Thanks for the review and update.

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