This will be my first flight since January and thus since COVID-19 consumed our lives. I have avoided air travel even while traveling via car a good bit for work but not any more. I have a early Monday meeting in VA and didn't want to make the long drive from my in-laws so I decided to fly on American from CAE-CLT-IAD. I live in Charlotte but was visiting my in-laws the weekend of my trip.
I hope I did an adequate job describing my experience flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sit back, fasten your seat belts, wear your mask and lets travel!
Airline: American Airlines (AA)
Aircraft: CRJ 900
Flight Number: AA5121
Departure Gate: 6
Departure Runway: 29
Scheduled Departure Time: 7:00
Actual Departure Time: 7:04
Scheduled Arrival Time: 8:03
Actual Arrival Time: 7:25
Landing Runway: 36L
Arrival Gate: E8
Scheduled Flight Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Actual Flight Time: 21 Minutes
I checked in around 23 hours prior to departure via the AA app. The process was easy and included an extra bit on how to stay safe during your travels and the regulations on face masks. From the seat map, it appeared that the flight would have around 10-15 passengers but its hard to tell with American *blocking seats*. I was expecting a light load for an early Sunday flight. I had the option to pay for certain seats but given the blocking of seats, expected light load, and duration of flight I decided just to opt for a free seat. I had already used all of my $200 airline credit via my American Express Platinum card so any paid seat assignment would come out of pocket.
All in all the process took less than a minute and in no time I had both my boarding passes.
I arrived at 5:50 to a fuller than expected terminal. The Delta and American desks each had 10+ passengers in line. What was concerning was the lack of social distancing markers and sanitizing stations in the landside area. NOT A SINGLE ONE. At this point, that is gross negligence. Bathrooms and water fountains had no safety measures in place. I have met the leaders of CAE and to be honest, I am surprised by this. Very disappointed in CAE.
NOW on to TSA. Again, another, failing grade. Security line was longer than expected but the agents seemed very confused about everything. I was the only passanger in Pre-check and when I was called I was moved right through other passengers and ended up standing next to a elderly gentlemen. My bag did need to be screened 2x due to my large 12oz bottle of sanitizer (I'm fine with this, safety first), however, I almost lost that bottle due to the agent thinking 62% alcohol was too high. If you have been paying attention, you know 60% is needed for it to kill the bad bad germs. Luckily, her supervisor let it pass (as she should have). All in all it only took 8 mins to clear security. But on another note, no hand saniztizing station airside exepct for a lone station 100ft from security and honestly not near anything.
Social Distancing markers were again not placed in the seating areas but luckily people know the drill by now.
Shops and resturants were all closed (typically something is open at 6am.) A Vending machine was present to get your drink fix.
CAE has two "areas" that join the middle for a small food court. The right hand area is all Delta and the left is shared by American and United. My gate for today was 6.
Just before boarding, I noticed a large crowd gathered by Gate 6. I was hoping some passengers were for the 7:20 to MIA or the 7:40 to DFW. I was wrong, this was going to be a fullish flight! I was shocked! Honestly, I expected an early Sunday flight to be empty. I was wrong!
At 6:31am, boarding began by group as was protocol pre-COVID. Boarding was quick and I (Group 6) was on board within just a few quick moments. I did have a passenger seated in the seat next to me (BOOO AMERICAN). I counted roughly 10 empty seats on the plane!
The bird was sparkling clean! I was impressed and also thankful for that. It helped that the bird had been in CAE overnight but also a relief to know that even at outstations that the planes were thoroughly cleaned at the end of the day. The width of the seat and leg room was standard. It was fine for a 21 minute flight but would have been tough on a 2+ hour flight. American does use CRJ900s on flights to the Midwest (yuck!). Each pair of seats does sport a universal plug with USB.
I was rusty and selected a window seat without a window!! Rookie mistake! I'm stick kicking myself.
American has equipped its CRJ900s with WIFI, though we were only briefly over 10K. The seatback contained a safety card, magazine and sick bag. I was a bit put off by the appearance of a magazine. Please forgive me for not wanting to touch it to get a cover picture.
This short sector (one of the shortest for AA) typical does not include any service so from this perspective nothing had changed. Its my understanding that just as before beverages would be available upon request. In order to be as courteous and as safe as possible I did not test this theory with the flight attendants.
Besides, the plane being packed, the short flight was uneventful. The lack of window sucked but that's my fault; rookie mistake by someone who isn't a rookie.
Passangers disembarked by row and luckily without a lot of people pushing for a quick exit.
Thank you for flying with me. Please stay safe during this difficult time and hopefully, we will all meet again soon at 35K feet in the sky.
BTW. American should increase frequencies or use a larger aircraft. I understand the economic strain of having a low load factor but I'm not yet ready to sit beside a stranger on a flight.