Kids on a Plane during the Pandemic!

Linda, my ex, has been sequestered in Seattle for over three months with her husband; he’s out there getting specialized medical treatment. The treatment has the unfortunate side-effect of destroying his immune system, exactly what you don’t want to do in the midst of a global pandemic, but the option to wait a year or two wasn’t on the table, so the timing is what it is. One result was a planned strict no visitor policy for the duration. Consequentially, interaction with Linda has been limited to phone calls and FaceTime, a definite limitation for a family where we tend to spend a lot of time together. All of the kids have also been balancing living with me and house-sitting Mom’s place a few miles up the road. Mom’s house, plants, cats, mail and everything else, but no Mom. It’s fair to say that the kids are really missing their Mom!

The strict quarantine has been eased just a bit as her husband has been starting to improve and last week my eldest flew out to spend a week with them in Seattle. She didn’t stay at their house, however. Mom rented an Airbnb around the corner where the two of them established their gal cave. Ashley was also able to spend some time with her step-dad too, and it was beneficial for all involved. Ashley came home calmer and more settled than she’d been for a while.

Transit was via planes — it’s a darn long drive from Boulder, CO to Seattle, WA — and it was really interesting to compare her experience with Linda’s original flight just a month or so into the pandemic. Linda’s journey through Denver International Airport at the time, May 2020, was startling and a bit alarming:

dia denver airport security pandemic covid mar 2020

On the plane it was like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, with passengers widely spaced and wearing hoodies and face masks:

passenger on plane flight, pandemic covid, mar 2020

Definitely a moment when only the people who really needed to travel were getting on airplanes, and wisely so.

Zoom forward a few months and we know more about the virus and its transmission vectors, so the planes are filling up again. Here’s the startling difference of Denver International Airport TSA security on a mid-August afternoon:

dia denver airport security pandemic - aug 2020

The planes are more full – props to Southwest for enforcing no middle seat passengers and mask requirements for the entire flight (other than eating and drinking) – and the airport is seeming to be a lot more normal. Ashley reported that there was one puzzled soul wandering around Seattle airport without a mask, but when reminded by flight crew that he couldn’t board their flight without a mask, he apparently slipped one on without fuss. In Denver, she only saw three people that weren’t wearing masks in the entire airport, including through security and on the transit tram, and “it just looked really weird”.

As of this afternoon, my youngest, K-, 16, is also on her way to visit Mom and will be landing in Seattle in about an hour. I expect she’ll wind her way through the airport just fine, meeting up with Mom for an intense few days of catching up before (online) school starts up again. Therapeutic for everyone involved, no question.

I feel good about it all because I know how smart, safe and fastidious all three of my children are when it comes to hygiene and current best practices with Covid-19. In a month or so, it’ll be time for Linda and her husband to head home – finally – and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll keep him maximally protected from germs on a plane for the first time in many months. With some basic precautions and smart choices, I feel like we might just get through this without losing our collective grip on sanity…

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