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I recently took my first flights since the COVID-19 pandemic started back in March 2020. My son was embarking on a two-year church mission in Portland, so I flew out with him to drop him off in Oregon. Normally, I don’t bother reviewing domestic economy flights for the most part, since they’re all pretty similar and there’s not much to say. In this case, however, I thought I would share my experiences with what flying is like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Booking with Frontier in the pandemic

I had booked the tickets on Frontier, through its website. It seems like Frontier is constantly running different sales and promotions, and we happened to catch them on a day where our flights were only $28. Because we only booked a one-way flight, we were not eligible for the Friends Fly Free promotion. Because I have top-tier Frontier Elite 100K status, that came with two checked bags, two carryons, and the ability to pick our own seats including their premium seating. And that’s not to mention the fact that the church pays for my son’s ticket as an embarking missionary, so I felt like we really maximized the value on this flight.

Security screening and TSA Pre during COVID-19

We arrived at CVG with plenty of time to spare and said some tearful goodbyes to my wife who was dropping us off at the airport. Normally I might have driven down and parked in the long-term parking, but during the pandemic, CVG has closed down the long-term “value” parking lot. Rather than pay $70 to park in the garage, I just had my wife drive us down.

Checking in with Frontier was no problem and we quickly approached the security screening area. Times listed were 1 minute for TSA Pre and 3 minutes for general screening. We scanned our boarding passes, and the agent gave our IDs back along with a little bookmark that talked about TSA Pre. I looked at it for a bit and then recycled it because it had no new information.

When we got to the X-ray belts, the other screener asked us if we were TSA Pre. I said that we were, and he asked for the bookmark. Apparently the initial agent is supposed to tell us to hang on to that because the luggage screening part is mixed. I told him I recycled it, and he asked the agent if we were TSA Pre.

Either he forgot that he scanned our boarding passes 30 seconds ago or just wanted to be a jerk, because he said no. Then he told us we’d need to take off our shoes and take our electronics out and everything, but I showed him our boarding passes with TSA Pre on it. I guess that was good enough for him as then we were able to proceed without any further delays.

Security theater at its finest folks 🙂

CVG Airport and The Club CVG airport lounge during the pandemic

After security, we made our way downstairs and walked to the A Concourse (deciding not to take the people mover)

We arrived at The Club CVG (a Priority Pass lounge). I wasn’t sure if we were going to stop there or not. When I peeked in, it was completely deserted

a room with a table and chairs

i.e. LITERALLY empty. In talking with the lounge attendant, she said that nobody had been there since 10 a.m. (it was 3:30 pm when we got there!). They said that is fairly typical for a weekday during the pandemic.

They’ve changed their menus up a bit. Within the past year or two, they had moved from a single-serve (bags of chips and cookies) to a more buffet style. I had wondered if they would have changed things. Turns out they still have the buffet-style snacks, but it is roped off and requires you to have an attendant serve you off of the menu

a sign with text and images on it

I went with the cheese plate, hummus and cookies

a plate of food on a table

Soft drinks are still self-serve from the vending machine and beer and wine can be served by the attendant

a menu with black text

Flying Frontier during COVID-19

Frontier has extended the amount of time that they block out for boarding. I would imagine that other airlines have probably done the same. For a 5:10 flight, our boarding passes listed 4:25 for boarding and doors closing at 4:45. They began boarding pretty much on time. Because I am a Frontier elite member and we had carryons, we were in Zone 1 and boarded pretty much first. They had someone taking every passenger’s temperature before scanning their boarding pass. We made our way down the jetbridge to our seats in 2D and 2F. The first three rows on Frontier are their “stretch” seats, which have slightly more legroom and padding than their regular seats.

Face coverings are required, and I saw most passengers complying even onboard. The two flight attendants I saw also had their face masks appropriately worn through the duration of the flight. I was wondering if the wording on the emergency briefing for oxygen masks would be changed, and it was. To be clear, if the oxygen masks drop from the panel above, you should first REMOVE your face covering before applying the oxygen mask :-). Frontier was already a low-cost carrier with no complimentary food or beverage service, and that continued. In fact, I did not see them with any sort of food cart at all, though they did make an announcement that there were items available for purchase.

We connected in Denver and had about a 1-hour layover. We again boarded pretty early, but then sat on the runway for about an hour. It wasn’t quite clear to me what was going on, but when you have a guy that looks like a maintenance guy kneeling in the cockpit, it’s never a good sign!

a group of people sitting in a plane

We had again booked seats 2D and 2F, but then someone booked 2E about two days before the flight, so we moved ourselves to 13D and 13F in the emergency exit row. I was a bit nervous because IRROPS is never a good thing, especially on an airline like Frontier that has limited interline agreements with other airlines. On the other hand, Denver is Frontier’s home, so I was hopeful that we would have the parts we needed, or at the worst case, a new airplane to fly us to Portland. In the end, we took off about 40 minutes late but made up some time, arriving about 20 minutes late.

Averaged out with the 25 minutes early on our first flight, it all works out ;-). I was pleased with the mask-wearing and enforcement by Frontier staff and flight attendants. There were a couple of times that I saw flight attendants tell people to wear their masks correctly, which I appreciated. But even without that, I saw more people wearing masks than I do in the general public. Perhaps more people are naturally hesitant about catching COVID while flying than they are with other activities?

Have you flown during the COVID-19 pandemic? What has been your experience? Leave it in the comments

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