To fly or not? Caution is always best

Kaitlyn Scoville / The Advance-Titan — Signs in airports remind travelers to social distance.

Kaitlyn Scoville / The Advance-Titan — Signs in airports remind travelers to social distance.

Kaitlyn Scoville, Copy Desk Chief and Writer

From July 18 to 22, my father and I decided to brace the rising national COVID cases to visit my sibling in California, whom we haven’t seen in about six months.

Our flight out on July 18 consisted of one layover in Chicago, and my sibling would then pick us up in San Jose.

The flight home on July 22 had us stopping in Seattle and Minneapolis before returning to Wisconsin.

California is currently under a second lockdown, where public establishments are closed to patrons. Everybody is required to remain at their residences with the exception of essential workers and essential errands.

“All individuals living in the state of California are currently ordered to stay home or at their place of residence, except for permitted work, local shopping or other permitted errands, or as otherwise authorized,” according to the coronavirus webpage.

When we arrived at the Appleton airport for departure, signs were posted in windows at the entrance enforcing the building’s requirement of face coverings while inside. TSA agents wore gloves to protect themselves further.

This was a common practice in every airport we were at.

Most passengers I observed abided by these new rules. However, some did not wear their masks correctly, leaving their noses unprotected and heightening my initial fears.

After boarding one of the commercial airlines, the flight attendants with American Airlines stressed that anybody who would not comply with their mask requirement would be taken off the plane and may not fly with that airline in the future.

Delta and Alaska Airlines did not have this rule, although they also said masks were mandatory with few exceptions.

There were adjustments to the in-flight food distribution to limit contact, and this was regular on all flights.

The only exceptions for not wearing a mask were when people were eating and drinking what they had personally brought onto the plane.

While my father and I were in California, we limited our activities to secluded hikes. My sibling works with an environmental nonprofit, so that helped us remain safe and distanced at places with low attendance.

Kaitlyn Scoville / Advance-Titan — Empty seats are common when flying with many of the airlines limiting capacity due to COVID-19.

When we passed others along our hikes, both parties were courteous enough to put their face coverings on despite being more than 6 feet apart and outside.

That’s nicer mask courtesy from others than I’ve experienced in Wisconsin since COVID started. And we were only in California for four days.

When we weren’t hiking, we remained in our hotel room and ordered takeout from locally owned restaurants.

We had our masks either in our pockets or on our faces at all times outside the hotel.

Upon our arrival back in Wisconsin, one thing my father and I discussed was that we felt safer on the airplane than in the airport when traveling.

All flights had reduced passenger limits to enforce social distancing.

The Alaska Air flight from San Jose to Seattle had over 80 seats, and approximately 35-40 of those were filled. We had two full rows of empty seats in front of and behind us until the next passenger.

On the other hand, at O’Hare, there were so many people in the airport, social distancing was nearly impossible. When we could get away from the crowd, people around us didn’t try to distance themselves.

Neither my father nor I have experienced any symptoms of COVID since returning home. My sibling hasn’t either.

It was smart of one airline to stress compliance for mask wearing, and pairing it with possible consequences was the cherry on top.

Even though we can’t really implement some kind of policing for mask wearing, it’s the least this airline did to protect their passengers and employees.

I would highly advise against airline traveling while COVID is still at high-risk. Even though my father and I were as careful as we could be, those around you may not take the same precautions.