As you know, I have been grounded for over half a year. By far, it’s been the longest I’ve been on the ground since I’ve been actively flying. It’s not bad at all. I started enjoying new hobbies such as cooking out, gardening and frequenting the local home improvement store. That said, it’s no doubt that I miss flying — terribly.
Last weekend, I decided to pull a trigger. Since my friend Doug graciously shared his airline benefit, I can fly anywhere within United’s network as a non-revenue passenger. I thought I might as well use the benefit while flying standby is relatively easy these days due to the low demand for air travel.
I booked a direct flight from Washington Dulles to Seattle and back over the weekend. There were over fifty open seats, so the chance clearing the list is virtually absolute unless the flight is canceled.
Even though air traffic started to pick up, Washington Dulles still looks deserted. There weren’t many people at the terminal. They consolidated both regular and pre-check lines — there wasn’t any wait time at all.
You will need to take off your mask when they checked your ID briefly. Other than that, it was a breeze.
As airlines implemented the social distancing boarding process, they no longer use the group boarding method. Instead, boarding was based on the row numbers, starting from the back of the plane to the front. However, first class passengers can board anytime.
What I found interesting from this process is that the entire thing felt very civilized. There was no rush or anything to board the plane. Everyone seemed to comply with the instruction and followed the safety protocols by social distancing. Honestly, I am quite impressed that most people wore a mask. I am happy to report that I did not see Karens or those anti-maskers.
United is one of few US airlines that no longer block the middle seat, though my flight was relatively empty. It looked like most passengers had an empty seat in between them. The great thing about flying as a non-revenue passenger is that you almost always get the best available seat. I got an empty seat next to me on the outbound flight, and the entire row to myself on the inbound flight.
I honestly lost track of the in-flight service adjustments. It seems like everything is evolving daily. In the case of my flight, alcohol wipes were distributed as we boarded the plane. Every passenger was also given a snack pack consisting of bottled water, pretzel, and biscoff cookies or stroopwaffle. Additionally, soft drinks were also available upon request — the whole can without ice, though the ice was available on the inbound flight. Keep in mind, the sale of alcohol and snack were still suspended.
Other than that, the flight was pretty uneventful — no Karens or any public freak out. Everyone seemed civilized. I guess that also depends on the route. 😉 We landed in Seattle ahead of schedule. For the record, Seattle airport seemed busier than Washington Dulles, though it wasn’t bad.
I honestly felt a bit uneasy taking these flights. I always try to stay home as much as possible because I think that’s the right thing to do during this pandemic. Last weekend, I finally pulled the trigger. I fully understood the risk and willing to take it cautiously and responsibly. I had a great time in Seattle with my family and never regretted the decision. Though for now, I will keep my travel minimum and to avoid unnecessary exposure.
Last but not least, I wore a mask the entire time during my flight; it wasn’t bad at all. So please wear your mask when you’re out in public because it protects you and protects others around you.