Is airplane flight safe during COVID-19? I tested the system.

I took my first airplane flight in two months on Tuesday. I flew back to Detroit from Charleston SC, through Atlanta, on Delta, and recorded my somewhat random observations during the trip.

Airport safety in Charleston was impressive. Lines for a luggage check in and security were well managed, and everyone wore masks. The airport was not crowded, which made assuring social distancing easy. 

Delta handled boarding and passenger loading very efficiently; they loaded from the back of the plane so that individuals did not have to pass each other in the aisles. Flight attendants and most passengers strictly wore masks and took other precautions, although a few of the passengers seemed clueless and often took off their masks while they were boarding the plane. Flight attendants were diligent in enforcing mask requirements, and quickly informed passengers of the need for masks.

I had a window seat and Delta is still not filling middle seats. Therefore, I felt very secure during the flight. The flight attendants were totally appropriate in conducting the flight and made sure everyone had adequate sanitizers, wipes, and whatever they felt was appropriate to make sure it was a clean environment. The plane appeared cleaner than any I remembered before the pandemic. 

The off-boarding in Atlanta was orderly and structured, and there was minimal interaction between passengers. 

Atlanta airport was much more crowded than Charleston, but passengers seemed better informed and more careful about interpersonal interactions. The one airport lounge I visited was not crowded, and it was easy to isolate myself. Snacks in the airport lounge have been restructured to avoid potential cross contamination between travelers.   

Boarding the flight to Detroit was remarkably well managed and helped by the fact that the plane was not full. Delta is not filling any middle seats which helped tremendously in the process. Flight attendants and other personnel seemed to be totally versed in safety protocols and made sure everyone had adequate amounts of sanitizer to assure that their seat could be cleaned (again) if the passenger desired. 

The flight itself could not have gone easier. Probably due to decreased congestion, the flight ended and arrived at the gate early. All snacks served during the flight were prepackaged and sterilized. 

Detroit airport was empty at 5:30 on Tuesday night when I arrived. There was no problem with social distancing and the few restaurants that were open appeared to be well managed in terms of dispersing patrons. 

In summary, flying on an airline that doesn’t pack airplanes, particularly in the middle seats, and requires masks makes flying in the current environment seem like a safe proposition. While airports appear to be the biggest risks involved in air travel, if you wear a mask continually, avoid crowded airport bars and restaurants, and avoid a packed lounge, this portion of the trip also seems to be safe.    

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

4 thoughts on “Is airplane flight safe during COVID-19? I tested the system.

  1. I just flew to Boston with a very similar experience. When I was waiting for my flight in the club room a pilot came by to ask my about how I thought thing were. I told him i thought Delta was doing an amazing job…but, if they start filling the middle seats I will not travel. He said he took note. I will say it is all nerve-wracking! But I do appreciate the efforts Delta has made.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a particularly helpful topic that you chose to address. Especially with the holidays approaching, it’s serves as a reminder of what we all need to do if travel is necessary. It also encourages airlines to do their part in sanitizing and keeping middle seats empty. Thank you!!

    On Thu, Nov 12, 2020 at 9:40 PM Pandemic Pondering wrote:

    > jbakerjrblog posted: ” I took my first airplane flight in two months on > Tuesday. I flew back to Detroit from Charleston SC, through Atlanta, on > Delta, and recorded my somewhat random observations during the trip. > Airport safety in Charleston was impressive. Lines fo” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In case you haven’t found the deaths yet Michigan in the latest weekly report shows 44,019 new cases and 416 deaths. This has led our governor to implement some very stringent safety measures effective Wednesday.

    Like

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