What to Expect When Flying During a Pandemic

Flying During a Pandemic was first published in the Montecito Journal

Ready for Take-Off

As you might expect, I had mixed feelings about flying during a pandemic. Thankfully, the City of Santa Barbara Airport eased pre-flight nerves before I entered the building. For example, there are separated entries for Alaska and American Airlines on the North end, United and Delta through the main, and signs requiring face masks at every turn.

Last sips of fresh air. (P.s. I wore the N-95 mask w/ valve before it was deemed unsafe.)

Upon entry, the airport wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t busy either. Without lines at the check-in counters (as in, not one person), the vibe is…chill. Relaxed. Enjoyable? No one is in a rush to catch a plane, people are kind and socially distancing, and hand sanitizer stations are filled and located anywhere you may roam.


The best surprise was taking my time through the TSA screening. (To private jetters and TSA pre-checkers, the following may sound foreign to you.) With my boarding pass and ID in hand, I strolled up to the TSA agent’s desk and passed my documents through a cut-out hole in the plexiglass barrier between us.


And what usually feels like a race to disrobe and unpack your perfectly packed belongings for the TSA scanners was the opposite – as opposed to limping out of the way wearing half a shoe, I had enough time to redress and pack up again like a civilized human. A first.

All Aboard the Pandemic Express

After a short wait at the gate, about twenty passengers boarded the Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. With seats in front and behind remaining empty, we strapped into entire rows to ourselves. The flight attendants ensured the cabin had been appropriately sanitized and proceeded with the pre-flight safety demonstration in masks and gloves.

Besides the usual mortality check of turbulence, and hoping my mask does its job, it felt like a normal flight. So normal, in fact, “maskne” (acne from wearing a mask) was my greatest concern than the virus itself. (A vain yet strange relief, I admit.)

A twenty-minute flight brought us to our first stop in San Louis Obispo, where a cleaning crew would disinfect the plane before the next group of passengers came aboard.

We were advised to either stay seated and direct the crew to clean around us or deplane with our belongings for a quick break. The cleaning crew turned out to be one cleaning guy, armed with a spray bottle of “high potency cleaning solution,” paper towels, and a vacuum which he used to trace each row. The cleaning guy asked if he could further assist me in any way, and I asked to take his photo instead.


Here’s where anxiety set in: enter twenty more passengers from SLO. A couple plopped down behind me, and one man scooted to the window seat in front.

After the food service of bottled water and packaged snacks (instead of sodas and juices poured into ice-filled cups), the coughing and sniffling commenced, seeming to echo inside my brain.

Each sneeze made me shutter, and I prayed the phlegmy hack from the woman behind me meant she was a smoker. The man in front of me let out a sneeze, and I felt terrible when I said, “Bless you” when I meant, “F You.”


Though the City of Santa Barbara Airport was the easiest part of the trip, and the airlines work hard to ensure the planes are clean and disinfected, you can’t help who will sit near you and trigger silent vitriolic attacks on fellow passengers. The moral of the story? If the virus is your biggest concern, postpone your vacation or fly at your own risk. ✈️

Have you flown during the pandemic? What was it like? Or, do you have questions about traveling right now? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Bonus: Some helpful TSA updates from my girl, Travel Tips by Laurie!

If you’re flying out of Santa Barbara, here’s a message from the local airport: 

Though Frontier Airlines from Santa Barbara to Denver, Colorado is canceled until further notice, American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, and United are still running. Here is a breakdown of service by airline and destination according to Angi Daus, the Marketing Coordinator of the City of Santa Barbara Airport:

Alaska’s current service is to Seattle (SEA). The current service pause via Alaska is to Portland (PDX) and will return based on demand.

American Airlines’ current service is to Dallas (DFW) and Phoenix (PHX). No loss.

Delta service to Salt Lake City (SLC) is paused. However, we don’t have set dates for the return, and, once again, it is dependent on demand.

United is currently services to SFO, LAX, DEN. No loss.

The lost number of flights going out changes daily, sometimes hour by hour. “We’ve seen some stability in scheduled flights not being canceled, but that isn’t guaranteed. Again, it’s based on demand and other needs of the airlines,” Daus said. “We at SBA are doing everything we can to keep as much service as possible for our community, but ultimately these decisions are made by the airlines.” SBA highly recommends all passengers to check their flight status and services regularly and to contact the airline directly with any needs.

Currently, there is a live, daily flight schedule on the homepage of www.FlySBA.com. Daus reminds passengers that the online flight schedule is just a quick reference, but passengers should check directly with their airline to ensure they have the most up to date information.

For more, visit www.flysba.com 

More Travel Stories Here!:

What it’s Like to Grocery Shop in Mexico

4 Reasons to Cruise Mainland Mexico over Baja

Previous Post

What it’s like for Commercial Fishing Woman, Emily Ekbom

Next Post

From Commercial Fisherwoman to Motherhood

Leave a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.