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Old 05-10-2020, 02:21 AM
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Air travel after lockdown


I've been wondering how things will return to normal. I read an article in The Atlantic about one guy's experience traveling by air. He had a miserable experience even though there weren't that many people on the plane because they were all trying to distance, so they expected that the empty seats would give them room and became contentious if people encroached on their space.

I Just Flew. It Was Worse Than I Thought It Would Be.


He had a confrontation with another passenger along with a lot of uncomfortable situations.

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A standoff ensued, with the irate passenger protesting that there were plenty of empty rows where I could sit (there weren’t) and the long-suffering flight attendant all but threatening to kick him off the plane (she didn’t). Finally, he relented and I squeezed awkwardly into my seat as the man muttered profanities under his breath.
The author concludes that things won't return to how they were.

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my fraught travel experience highlighted an unwelcome truth: The glittering allure of “normalcy” that waits on the other end of these stay-at-home orders is a mirage.
Shortly after I read the article, I saw this picture of a full plane of people, none of them seemed to be complaining. I don't know for sure when the picture was taken, but everyone I can see is wearing a mask.

I'm wondering if the return to normal will look more like the first person's experience or the picture of pretty much business as usual. Will it depend on the place?
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Old 05-10-2020, 02:49 AM
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Cheap air travel has always involved taking your chances squeezing into an enclosed cabin for hours with dozens of other people, of whom you are 100% guaranteed some are teeming with particularly undesirable germs. Has any airline advertised any change in policy and concomitant jacking up of baseline fares? Would you be willing to pay what used to be first-class fares every time? I doubt it.
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Old 05-10-2020, 03:50 AM
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The big issue with air travel is the air con systems - they amount of recirc is such that even if you are spaced well apart it is completely meaningless - you might as well be right next to each other.

I have seen no mention of that fact - but if air were to be cleaned up and less use made of recirc then it would inevitably be more expensive to fly.
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Old 05-10-2020, 03:51 AM
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After we have a vaccine, I think things will just go back to normal, except for a requirement to prove immunity.

Until then, it's going to be difficult. As testing gets easier and better, PCR testing within 48 hours of flight departure would not be perfect but would reduce risk. But it seems likely that a lot of countries will mandate 2-week quarantine upon arrival.

Of course, the clusterfuck that is the U.S. may just get out of control, a million deaths - but herd immunity by Christmas, hooray for everyone left alive!
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Old 05-10-2020, 07:35 AM
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But it seems likely that a lot of countries will mandate 2-week quarantine upon arrival.

There's no way that can be a long-term policy without killing off almost all travel.

Vacation travel? Most people's vacations are probably around two weeks to begin with. Even if there isn't a quarantine after you get back home (and why wouldn't there be?), that means you need a month of vacation to get your two weeks vacation at your actual destination. How many people can take a full month off?

Business travel has the same problem. You're sending your people there because you don't think they can do the work remotely. Are you going to pay them a month's salary for a few days work in between quarantines? Imagine every meeting on your schedule needing a full month's time commitment.

The only travel you'd see would be long-term re-locations, where a two week delay isn't a deal breaker. So things like immigration, where you plan to live there forever. Or long-term job placements, like teaching in a foreign country. People retiring to Costa Rica.
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:16 AM
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There's no way that can be a long-term policy without killing off almost all travel.
I agree, but I was talking about the interim period until we have a vaccine. I think most nonessential international air travel will be killed off in that period. What's the point of undergoing the hardship of lockdowns and social distancing measures to control the spread if you are going to allow potential new sources of infection to first enclose themselves in groups in close proximity in a metal tube for several hours, then disperse and travel around the country at will?
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Old 05-10-2020, 08:01 PM
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...The only travel you'd see would be long-term re-locations, where a two week delay isn't a deal breaker. So things like immigration, where you plan to live there forever. Or long-term job placements, like teaching in a foreign country. People retiring to Costa Rica.
That, and the idle super rich going to Europe for the season.
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Old 05-10-2020, 09:36 PM
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After we have a vaccine, I think things will just go back to normal, except for a requirement to prove immunity.
There will never be a requirement to prove immunity.

If a vaccine - not itself a likely thing anytime soon - is produced, then people will no longer worry about the disease at all, the way they don't worry about polio now. There will be outrage over antivaxxers, but as it currently the case, that problem won't be enough to get people panicked.
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Old 05-10-2020, 09:42 PM
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The big issue with air travel is the air con systems - they amount of recirc is such that even if you are spaced well apart it is completely meaningless - you might as well be right next to each other.

I have seen no mention of that fact - but if air were to be cleaned up and less use made of recirc then it would inevitably be more expensive to fly.
Supposedly they turn the air over every 3 minutes with external air, so it's not like they just pressurize the cabin and everyone just marinates in everyone else's exhalations and emissions for the duration of the flight.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...ng/3508599002/ (note- a year ago!)
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Old 05-10-2020, 09:56 PM
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There will never be a requirement to prove immunity.
Perhaps not in the long run, if vaccination becomes routine and widespread so that a few holdouts don't drop us below herd immunity. But when the vaccine is first introduced? I think your options will be to prove immunity, to be quarantined for 2 weeks on arrival, or to stay home.
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:04 PM
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There may briefly be situations like that, but a much likelier scenario is that travel would not be permitted or - to be honest, the most likely outcome - that eventually people will just shrug and live with the disease, after some time has passed and new cases level off to a steady rate.
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Old 05-10-2020, 10:44 PM
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Supposedly they turn the air over every 3 minutes with external air, so it's not like they just pressurize the cabin and everyone just marinates in everyone else's exhalations and emissions for the duration of the flight.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...ng/3508599002/ (note- a year ago!)
Also, they use highly effective HEPA air filters. Air quality is less a factor than proximity to virus-shedding passengers.
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Old 05-10-2020, 11:35 PM
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There may briefly be situations like that, but a much likelier scenario is that travel would not be permitted or - to be honest, the most likely outcome - that eventually people will just shrug and live with the disease, after some time has passed and new cases level off to a steady rate.
Any guesses (if you care to) about when that might be. In the OP, I was wondering if that time was now. I just watched a video done by a couple Swedes about how they think the fear is mostly manufactured by the media and how relaxed they are about the whole thing there. Maybe people who get on planes a lot are more risk-tolerant than people who don't and would likely take the chance?

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Originally Posted by bump View Post
Supposedly they turn the air over every 3 minutes with external air, so it's not like they just pressurize the cabin and everyone just marinates in everyone else's exhalations and emissions for the duration of the flight.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...ng/3508599002/ (note- a year ago!)
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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
Also, they use highly effective HEPA air filters. Air quality is less a factor than proximity to virus-shedding passengers.
Thanks for that info. I would never have guessed that considering how many times I've gotten sick after trips and the same with the people I know and also the foul smell of the air in planes. But as you say, it could be that coming into contact with different people and being in close proximity with them causes the illnesses.
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Old 05-11-2020, 07:27 AM
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Supposedly they turn the air over every 3 minutes with external air, so it's not like they just pressurize the cabin and everyone just marinates in everyone else's exhalations and emissions for the duration of the flight.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...ng/3508599002/ (note- a year ago!)
Right. Planes are very leaky. Air is constantly entering and exiting the plane’s interior.

It’s one reason why that “Airport” movie where the 747 sinks into the ocean and the passengers relax for the rest of the day (as if they were in a submarine) is laughably wrong.
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Old 05-11-2020, 09:47 AM
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JetBlue announced a week or so ago that all passengers on all flights would be expected to wear masks during the entire flight, from take off to landing. That's unfortunate for me, as they're my preferred airline. Not sure if other carriers will follow their lead.
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Old 05-11-2020, 09:52 AM
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Any guesses (if you care to) about when that might be. In the OP, I was wondering if that time was now. I just watched a video done by a couple Swedes about how they think the fear is mostly manufactured by the media and how relaxed they are about the whole thing there. Maybe people who get on planes a lot are more risk-tolerant than people who don't and would likely take the chance?
I'm not sure. I know to those of us in lockdown it feels like forever, but it's not even been two months here.

Of course, it depends a lot where you live. Here in Ontario, there remains substantial public support for lockdown; I'm not sure how far into good weather that will last, though. There are nuts EVERYWHERE who think this is all a hoax, Bill Gates, QAnon, blah blah blah, but the "Shrug" moment comes when normal people are accustomed to the risk. That point isn't pre-set. It's dependent on the pandemic levelling off, a thing that can happen and then not happen again.

My guess for here is that support for lockdown is going to wither away in June, although most people will still support blocking Americans from coming across the border. What will happen, though, is that at some point, likely before summer is up, a critical mass of people here will say "yeah, this sucks but it's someone else's problem" and will want to go about their business as long as there are "Security theatre" pageants they can see to make them feel better, the way that after 9/11, heightened security at the check in at airports made people feel better even though it didn't really do anything to make them safer.

The thing about a graduated lifting of lockdown is that it'll level off the infection rate to a predictable number. It doesn't matter if that number is high, what matters is that it stays the same. That's what will get people used to it, the way t hey are used to car accidents and drownings. It's an upward change in the number that frightens people.
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Old 05-11-2020, 10:30 AM
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JetBlue announced a week or so ago that all passengers on all flights would be expected to wear masks during the entire flight, from take off to landing. That's unfortunate for me, as they're my preferred airline.
Unfortunate....why?
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Old 05-11-2020, 10:37 AM
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Right. Planes are very leaky. Air is constantly entering and exiting the plane’s interior.
I don't think you understand the concept nor the reality of a pressurized air cabin.
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Old 05-11-2020, 10:38 AM
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Because I don’t want to wear a mask for the entire flight. They’re not very comfortable.
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Old 05-11-2020, 10:41 AM
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Because I don’t want to wear a mask for the entire flight. They’re not very comfortable.
I agree they are uncomfortable. I'm willing to be uncomfortable for a few hours though, if it is for a good cause. If I had to fly tomorrow, I'd go out of my way to fly an airline that required masks and distancing.
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Old 05-11-2020, 10:49 AM
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Because I don’t want to wear a mask for the entire flight. They’re not very comfortable.
I might be more comfortable in my underwear and barefoot, but I'm not going to subject the other passengers and crew to that. Likewise, I don't want to subject the passengers and crew to my germs, so I'll happily wear a mask.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:04 AM
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Because I don’t want to wear a mask for the entire flight. They’re not very comfortable.
Find a more comfortable mask.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:15 AM
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I wonder how the TSA is handling ID checks if everyone is wearing masks.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:24 AM
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Find a more comfortable mask.
I suspect a more comfortable mask is less secure.

I had to go to the hospital over the weekend on a completely unrelated matter. There was a patient there they threatened to kick out because she wouldn't put on her mask.

They gave people masks at the front if they didn't enter wearing one. Also, they demanded I remove my gloves.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:25 AM
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I wonder how the TSA is handling ID checks if everyone is wearing masks.
Politely and respectfully, of course.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:25 AM
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I wonder how the TSA is handling ID checks if everyone is wearing masks.
They hold a tiny mask up to each passenger's driver's license photo.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:30 AM
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Because I don’t want to wear a mask for the entire flight. They’re not very comfortable.
Find a more comfortable mask.
Serious question; can you recommend one that is widely available that is more comfortable and yet is effective?
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:30 AM
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I might be more comfortable in my underwear and barefoot, but I'm not going to subject the other passengers and crew to that. Likewise, I don't want to subject the passengers and crew to my germs, so I'll happily wear a mask.
I sincerely doubt a mask (the type most people are wearing) will keep all your germs away from seatmates on a plane.

When I start flying again, it will be because I've stop trying to avoid exposure.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:39 AM
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Serious question; can you recommend one that is widely available that is more comfortable and yet is effective?
I'm not uncomfortable wearing a mask while running or biking, so I can't imagine sitting in an airline seat would cause me a lot of problems. They are less comfortable than not wearing a mask, but nothing that I would risk my health over.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:44 AM
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When I start flying again, it will be because I've stop trying to avoid exposure.
Yup, the problem with makeshift masks is that we really have no reliable data on how effective they are. The argument that they "can't hurt" applies only if people are strictly continuing to observe all the same social distancing measures that we know do work, even when wearing a makeshift mask. But that is clearly is not happening. Numerous times in the past few weeks I've asked store employees to main separation from me, with the response "but I'm wearing a mask".

Mandating masks on flights may be fine, provided the airlines are specifying types of mask that we know are actually effective, and that passengers can obtain. But if JetBlue's policy is to allow any makeshift mask, their policy may do more harm than good, if it makes people feel safer flying when they really are not.
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:47 AM
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I wonder how the TSA is handling ID checks if everyone is wearing masks.
Here ya go.

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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I sincerely doubt a mask (the type most people are wearing) will keep all your germs away from seatmates on a plane.
And I doubt forcing people to remove their shoes is protecting us from terrorism in the air.
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Old 05-11-2020, 12:46 PM
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I wonder how the TSA is handling ID checks if everyone is wearing masks.
You actually are asked to remove your mask while the agent verifies your identity against your ID. You may then put your mask back on.

It's the agents that are taking more risks. You don't wear the mask to protect yourself. You wear it to protect others from you.
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Old 05-11-2020, 01:00 PM
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I don't think you understand the concept nor the reality of a pressurized air cabin.
He's not wrong, though. All pressurized airplanes have an outflow valve at the back of the cabin. Air is constantly exiting the cabin through this valve. And as I understand it it's not uncommon for a little air to leak out around the doors. The remedy for this is to close the outflow valve a bit to compensate. (Although I don't really work in the aviation field; that's just something I picked up from aviation message boards). Airplanes aren't completely airtight vessels like most people assume.
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Old 05-11-2020, 01:02 PM
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I've received an email from Delta talking about how everyone will have to wear masks, and that passengers will be seated distanced from each other - something like no more than one passenger per row, although I'm not sure if we'll be every other row then or what. I haven't gotten any such emails from Alaskan Airlines, but I'm not sure what capacity they'd be looking at, anyway.
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Old 05-11-2020, 01:21 PM
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I don't think you understand the concept nor the reality of a pressurized air cabin.
Airplanes are kept at a certain pressure by allowing air in and out at relatively constant rates. Of course they can’t be SUPER leaky — if they were, the pressure inside couldn’t be kept higher than the pressure outside — but they are leakier than most people assume.

ETA: What Wildabeast said.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 05-11-2020 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 05-11-2020, 06:28 PM
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The local news last night had a picture taken on a United flight from New York to San Francisco with every seat filled. People were wearing masks at least. At least some of the people were coming back from helping with the crisis.
Does the rule of masks on all the time mean no eating and drinking ever? Empty middle seat is hardly social distancing.
Airline flights are mostly empty today not because of restrictions but because people don't want to risk it. I don't think even the airlines think everyone is coming back. Good for health, bad for their bottom line.
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Old 05-11-2020, 06:45 PM
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I've received an email from Delta talking about how everyone will have to wear masks, and that passengers will be seated distanced from each other - something like no more than one passenger per row, although I'm not sure if we'll be every other row then or what. I haven't gotten any such emails from Alaskan Airlines, but I'm not sure what capacity they'd be looking at, anyway.
I've gotten similar emails from Lufthansa and United, if memory serves. I didn't pay much attention to them because I can't really conceive of anything that would get me on a plane for the foreseeable future (or until we have an effective vaccine or I achieve immunity in some other dependable way, God forbid).

The only person I know who has gotten on a plane on purpose since the shelter in place order here was a childhood friend, to go to his father's funeral (death not from COVID-19, from nice boring cancer). Even then I don't think anyone would have blamed him for skipping it under the circumstances.

Last edited by Eva Luna; 05-11-2020 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 05-12-2020, 11:51 AM
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JetBlue announced a week or so ago that all passengers on all flights would be expected to wear masks during the entire flight, from take off to landing. That's unfortunate for me, as they're my preferred airline. Not sure if other carriers will follow their lead.
I'd look upon that as a plus, personally - though it would make longer-haul flights difficult since you kind of need to eat / drink on occasion.

Though they might leverage this as a cost-savings benefit, since they wouldn't have to serve even half-cans of diluted soda.
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Old 05-12-2020, 01:00 PM
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I've gotten similar emails from Lufthansa and United, if memory serves. I didn't pay much attention to them because I can't really conceive of anything that would get me on a plane for the foreseeable future (or until we have an effective vaccine or I achieve immunity in some other dependable way, God forbid).

The only person I know who has gotten on a plane on purpose since the shelter in place order here was a childhood friend, to go to his father's funeral (death not from COVID-19, from nice boring cancer). Even then I don't think anyone would have blamed him for skipping it under the circumstances.
Mine made sense - I'm flying with Delta mid-late June. I think most of the airlines I've looked at are saying they're taking those precautions for sure till the end of May, but I don't doubt they'll be extended. I'm kinda hoping they still are through the summer, just to help people stay at least a little safer. I guess we'll see how things turn out.

Sorry to hear about your friend's dad That's awful.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:07 AM
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Shortly after I read the article, I saw this picture of a full plane of people, none of them seemed to be complaining. I don't know for sure when the picture was taken, but everyone I can see is wearing a mask.
Just a guess, but I think this picture goes with this story. The details are the same. The picture shows a full plane. UA says it was 85% full.

Doctor says cross-country United airlines flight scarier than volunteering in a Covid-19 hospital ward

United Airlines offered to give the doctors and nurses who volunteered to go NY to help in the hospitals with Covid-19 free flights back to the west coast. The doctor who took the picture says that the airline sent an email that they would blocking off the middle seats to give everyone room for social distancing. When he got on the plane, he realized that they weren't going to be doing that. He had given an interview to a news station before the flight that he was more worried about catching Covid-19 from the flight home than getting it from the hospital ward. He said that his fears were justified.

So if this picture matches this story, many of the people on that flight didn't choose to travel in a full plane. Many of them were medical professionals who were given a free flight home, only to realize that there would be hazardous conditions on the flight.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:56 AM
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A number of nations who have reduced their Corona burden to very low numbers or eliminated it are in talks about opening for mutual travel, and air "corridors" between them next month. My guess is that more nations who are currently in the process of easing out of lockdown as their infection rates fall will join them. A lot of flights will be back to normal towards the end of June. The exceptions will be the countries that cannot manage the virus. I don't know what is going to happen there. Shut out from travel networks, long quarantines or strict testing procedures?
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Old 05-21-2020, 06:02 AM
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Cheap air travel has always involved taking your chances squeezing into an enclosed cabin for hours with dozens of other people, of whom you are 100% guaranteed some are teeming with particularly undesirable germs. Has any airline advertised any change in policy and concomitant jacking up of baseline fares? Would you be willing to pay what used to be first-class fares every time? I doubt it.
In recent years, first-class fares have generally been what, about 4x coach fares?

I'd be satisfied if they left middle seats unoccupied and required everyone to wear masks. That would require ticket prices to go up by a factor of 1.5x, not 4x.

Yes, I'd pay that.
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Old 05-21-2020, 06:28 AM
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Before the virus, I always sought out the cheapest airfare possible. As seat size became smaller, I wondered if they'd ever offer even cheaper fares for this willing to stand, knowing I'd go for it.

So how about individual plexiglass(?) tubes? The tube rotates around, creating an entry. You step in and rotate your tube closed.
  #44  
Old 05-21-2020, 06:28 AM
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I'd add that the mask requirement would have to have serious teeth to get me back on airplanes, as in, "you wear your mask properly except when actually putting stuff in your mouth, and if you give us problems about it, we land the plane at the nearest airport and escort you off."

A few cases of people taking off their masks once airborne enroute to Orlando being dumped in Greensboro, or headed to L.A. and finding themselves in Omaha, would get the message across admirably.
  #45  
Old 05-21-2020, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
In recent years, first-class fares have generally been what, about 4x coach fares?

I'd be satisfied if they left middle seats unoccupied and required everyone to wear masks. That would require ticket prices to go up by a factor of 1.5x, not 4x.

Yes, I'd pay that.
More than that, since the person behind you is not six feet away. And the person in front you you is even closer if they recline their seats.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:25 PM
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Just a guess, but I think this picture goes with this story. The details are the same. The picture shows a full plane. UA says it was 85% full.

Doctor says cross-country United airlines flight scarier than volunteering in a Covid-19 hospital ward
That's the one, and the one I was referring to. I saw the story on the local news.
  #47  
Old 05-21-2020, 09:49 PM
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More than that, since the person behind you is not six feet away. And the person in front you you is even closer if they recline their seats.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
That's the one, and the one I was referring to. I saw the story on the local news.
I don't believe for a moment that you know the first thing about travel.
  #48  
Old 05-22-2020, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
I'd be satisfied if they left middle seats unoccupied and required everyone to wear masks. That would require ticket prices to go up by a factor of 1.5x, not 4x.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
More than that, since the person behind you is not six feet away. And the person in front you you is even closer if they recline their seats.
Because they're too close, I'd have to pay more??

Could you try again? I can't parse this reply.
  #49  
Old 05-22-2020, 09:14 AM
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I think the demand for Business and First class seats will improve, with social distancing already baked into these classes. Service will probably suffer, with elaborate menus and personalized dining services replaced with standard tray-based meals and as limited contact as possible. It remains to be seen if Business and First fares will go up or down.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:44 AM
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I've no doubt that in the short term we'll see a mix of every conceivable pricing strategy as airlines desperately try to get some kind of dough rolling in. Higher fares? Lower fares? Unusual deals? They'll try it all. Long term it'll just be the same as it was before... but some major airlines might not exist anymore.
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