Traveling During a Pandemic

I’ve gotten many questions about our recent trip and the state of travel. I know many of you are ready to start venturing back into the world (and many aren’t, which is fine!), so I thought I would share what to expect if you do happen to book a trip!

The Airport

Arriving to IAH was a sobering experience. Instead of the normal hustle and bustle of the Houston airport, you see rows and rows of jets parked on every available runway.

The airport was virtually empty, but there are definitely people traveling. When I say empty, I mean there are countless parking spots available in the garage (and $10 a day terminal parking!), the security lines are almost non-existent and it was a breeze to go through United Terminal E TSA Pre- Check Security, which is typically a nightmare. I would say 90% of people are wearing masks, and almost all people are doing their best to social distance during their travels.

You’ll notice the majority of bars, restaurants, and shops are closed, which is a stark reminder to our unemployment situation. The airport is typically lively, and filled with excitement… this trip we found it almost deserted.  Since everything is closed or operating at a minimum, plan to eat prior to your arrival. In addition, a few of the United Clubs are closed so check your app for available locations, and updated hours. The only one that was open in our area was the United Club at Terminal E, and it opened at 8am.

Empty United Club at Terminal E IAH

Onboard

When boarding the plane, the airline has changed the process and skips the group numbers and instead boards back-to-front. They do however still honor the Global Services, Disabilities, Military, Children, and 1K pre-boarding. We were basically the only folks in the pre-boarding group both directions of our trip.

When you board, you must be wearing a face mask and are required to wear it during the entire flight, which everyone complied. As soon as you walk onboard, the attendants hand you a packet of hand sanitizer.

One thing that surprised me on the flight from IAH to STT was that the flight was almost full. I was shocked to see 3-person rows in Economy Plus, while standard economy had a max of 1 person in most rows. United even sat a couple in the two seats next to Dan, which was alarming at first, given the fact that United and the world is preaching Social Distancing. I looked on the app and it said something to the effect of “we aren’t allowing middle seat selection in advance, but call us and we’ll allow families to sit together.” This means someone could be right.up.next.to.you. Be aware so it doesn’t shock you!

United then proceeds to deplane 5 rows at a time and asks everyone to stay 6 feet apart…. But they put unfamiliar people within touching distance of other folks while sitting for 4 hours? Doesn’t make much sense to me, but what really does these days??

Empty Runways at IAH

The plane was spotless and in better condition than I had seen in years. While flying, they do not offer food/drink service or anything for purchase in Economy. Instead, you get a little snack baggy with a Stroopwaffl, a mini-Dasani water, and a sad bag of pretzels. Again, plan ahead if you want something beyond this selection, because they aren’t stocking the galley in any way. In First Class, they offer you a snack box and your standard unlimited alcohol but it will be beer and wine only.

United’s Snack Baggie for Economy

Arrival

Arrival into St. Thomas was simple and the only requirement was to wear a mask through the airport and answer 2 quick questions while getting your temperature taken—have you been in contact with anyone who tested positive or may have Covid 19? And have you been experiencing any symptoms of the Corona Virus? Answer no and you’re on your way to the beach!

Returning Home

All the same things above applied to our return journey, except there were approximately 30 people on the entire plane. Business Class was full and Economy was virtually empty. Once we arrived back into Houston, we were on our way. No rules, screenings, etc. Super Simple.  

Empty Economy Class for Flight from STT to IAH

Overall, we felt very comfortable flying and both airports where incredibly clean. Again, this isn’t a forum for when/if you should travel, but instead a listing of the facts we experienced over the weekend. When you do decide it’s the right time for you, make sure you’re aware of your options, the risks, and do whatever you can to be safe.  And then enjoy every moment you can at your destination!

Secret Harbour, St. Thomas USVI

Happy Travels!

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