Monday, March 8, 2021

Flying During COVID-19


Photos by Ewout Rijk de Vries | I have been a frequent flyer on Delta for many years. After this experience, I hope to fly frequently soon again.


 

What a relaxing and pleasant experience! 

The international wide-bodied aircraft used by Delta only carried 21 passengers.

Almost one year since I last disembarked from a flight from Munich, Germany, back to Fort Myers, I was finally back on an airplane again. In our travel business, I was used to flying at least once every two months and often times more, so this felt like a special occasion. But we were concerned about the risk of exposure. 

Any worries about being exposed quickly disappeared. The Delta checkin at Fort Myers Airport strictly adhered to social distancing, counters were spotless, and agents could not have been friendlier. TSA personnel was equally accommodating and friendly.   Additionally, the number one fear of flying at this time is to be exposed to someone sitting next to you within the rule of six-foot distance. Someone who is COVID positive, probably asymptomatic and does not even know it. Delta is the only major carrier that has eliminated that risk, as middle seats are blocked—at least until March 30. The second fear is contaminated seat rests and tray tables. I carry 70% alcohol to wipe them clean, but Delta was one step ahead as the crew immediately handed out wipes. 

On this particular day, Delta had changed their normal equipment from Fort Myers to Detroit to a widebody aircraft normally only used for long haul flights. One of the cabin crew explained that due to COVID-19, the pilots did not get enough international hours to keep up their qualification. Therefore, the aircraft was used to fly roundtrips between Fort Myers and Detroit.

 


One could not help but smile at the message in the restroom on our Delta flight.


 

There were only 21 passengers on board and my wife Jill and I were upgraded to DeltaOne, firstclass to enjoy the almost private cubicle space, lie-flat beds, and incredibly efficient service. And it was all delivered with friendly conversation and wide smiles. For breakfast, we were offered choice of a selection of snacks with excellent salami, fresh cheeses and an assortment of crackers, or yogurts and cereal packed in decorative boxes. Wine, beer, soda and water was available as well. The label on the individual water bottles read: “The world has been waiting for you. So have we. We’re so glad to see you.”  And when I went to the immaculately clean restroom the message on the mirror read: “Good handwashing takes 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.” In a pamphlet designed in cooperation with the well-known Mayo Clinic, Delta explained their rigid cleaning methods. And according to Paloma Beamer, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Arizona, air quality inside the aircraft is about ten times higher than in most commercial buildings.  

The label on my individual bottle of water said it all.

Changing planes in Detroit, it was easy to social distance. In the days before COVID-19, Concourse C here was an anthill of activity crammed with people rushing in both directions. As you can see from the photo I took, that has drastically changed for the moment. Not a person in sight!  

Arriving in Portland, Maine, we had prebooked a Rapid COVID Test right in the arrival area of the airport. The organization was superb as the test for both of us was scheduled at 1 PM and took place exactly on time. Half an hour later, I got the negative results on my iPhone. 

If you are considering travel on Delta, do not hesitate and go. In my experience, it seemed to be safer on board than going to the supermarket at home!         

Ewout Rijk de Vries and his wife Jill have owned and operated America Travel Arrangements and Photodevries.com on Marco Island for almost 40 years. Ewout can be reached at ewout@photodevies.com. 

 

 


 

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