I flew yesterday for the first time since the mask mandate was lifted…it was a bit surreal, to be honest…but strangely satisfying.
My Airplane Trip Without A Mask…Two Years In The Making
I am glad to see the mask mandate come to an end. At the same time, I respect those who choose to continue to wear a mask in crowded public settings like airports or airplanes. As I mentioned earlier, I am happy to wear a mask if someone asks me to sincerely, particularly if they are immunocompromised.
I was originally scheduled to travel midday from Los Angeles to New Orleans via Houston, but wanted to maximize my time at home so I changed to a redeye via San Francisco. That gave me several extra hours with my family, but it did mean I lost my upgrade and did not even wind up with EconomyPlus (extra legroom economy) on the Los Angeles – San Francisco leg.
It also meant it took me 90 minutes to travel 18 miles to LAX…
Upon reaching LAX, I noticed that one CLEAR agent was wearing a mask and one was not. Three of the four TSA agents I dealt with were not wearing masks, while one had one on under his nose and mouth.
My first real interaction was at the United Club at LAX. There, the ladies at the check-in desk told me that it was so nice to see me smile and made a joke that I actually have teeth. We shared a laugh…it was a kind moment. Neither was wearing a mask.
Inside the lounge, the cleaning staff, a demographic who has been hit hardest by the pandemic, continued to wear masks. Very few passengers had masks on; I’d say less than 10%.
My flight to San Francisco was delayed due to bad weather, but we finally boarded 45 minutes late. I had an aisle seat in row 23 and was among the last to board. I noticed that roughly half the plane had masks on, which was not surprising considering this was a flight between the blue cities of LA and San Francisco.
The three flight attendants onboard did not wear masks, nor did the pilots.
One exchange struck me most of all. As I was stepping off my flight, I smiled at one of the the FAs standing by the door and said it is so nice to see her face. A big smile spread across her face and she responded that it was nice to see my face as well.
I fly a whole lot and this was really the first time in two years I’ve seen the face of a United flight attendant. It was lovely. All three flight attendants were lovely. Face-to-face interaction has been greatly missed. I do believe we’ve been too quick to dismiss its importance as human beings.
Since it appeared my upgrade would not clear, I used Priority Pass to have dinner at Mustards Grill at SFO, breaking my diet to have a cheeseburger (I left most of the French Fries).
I then boarded the flight to New Orleans where we faced another delay. The captain, without a mask, came out of the flight deck and provided an update to everyone.
Flight attendants were not wearing masks. I’d say about 1/3 of the passengers on this flight were wearing a mask.
I tossed and turned from my economy class bulkhead seat and we finally landed in New Orleans…my red eyes proving I had just stepped off a redeye.
Before heading into town, I stopped at The Club and got some work done and had breakfast. Lounge staff were wearing masks, but very few lounge patrons were.
My Lyft driver into town was not wearing a mask, nor was the staff at my hotel.
With full flights and no masks, travel now seems so much back to “normal.” I was happy to leave my mask in my pocket and thankful that there were no issues onboard: everyone was respectful of one another.
Finally, I state once again that I do take seriously that my decisions not only impact me, but others. I insist upon respecting those who continue to wear masks, even if it is done out of fear. We have asked for months for the courtesy to make up our own minds about masks: that means some can choose to continue to wear them.
Have you flown since the mask mandate was lifted? What was your experience like?