Flying in USA on Southwest and Delta during the COVID-19 Pandemic April 2020

On April 5, 2020 I flew between JAX and ATL due to an unavoidable family travel need. I have been and will be self isolating as long as advised as much as I can. I encourage everyone to not fly if you can avoid it. 

On this trip I rode down in a car and flew back. I had no choice. 

When I arrived at JAX airport it was a ghost town with almost all stores and restaurants shuttered. 

The checkin desks were empty with a few bored ticket agents standing around. Surreal for a Sunday in Florida. 

I was the only person going thru security less than an hour before my departure. It was very weird to be in this airport so empty and overly quiet. 

When I chatted with my gate agent I found out there were only 12 passengers plus one dog on my flight. When my plane arrived I counted 7 passengers deplaning the inbound flight.   

On board my flight to ATL

I managed to get a bottled water at the only open store beyond security. I suggested the store start selling beer in the near future. 

Yay water!

I noticed about 50% of the passengers were wearing masks. I wore a mask and gloves myself for the flight at the advisement of my doctor. It was a very strange experience. 

Boarding was very fast. We just spaced out the line and got on. I had my own row and overhead bin. I lucked out with the entire exit row to myself. 

To my surprise the flight crew was not wearing masks only gloves. There was no onboard service and they only collected used sanitary wipes. 

I used on of my own wipes on my seat and armrests. I love flying and this felt very different. It was very quiet on board during the short flight. 

We did depart early which was nice. The next to last flight to leave JAX that day. We arrived into ATL about 20 minutes early. 

Update: 

I flew Delta on the same route and had a much different experience! I flew on April 17th and 19th, 2020. 

The flight was fuller with about 40-50 on board. On my return we had about 30 on board. 

In this case Delta assigned seats per normal but no middles. First class was totally full both ways. 

To my surprise the flight attendant announcements and safety videos included washing your hands for 20 seconds, sneeze into tissue or arm, and not to touch your face. No mention of any of this on Southwest. 

The captain came out before takeoff on my outbound flight to announce the plane is wiped down after each flight and fogged with disinfectant every night while parked. 

We were also given bags with cheezits, Biscoff cookies, a bottle of water, and a purel wipe which was nice. I didn’t use my snack bag on board so I could keep my mask on. 

Delta did a lot to more to make flyers more comfortable during the pandemic. It was good to see and experience. 

Delta was giving out gold!

There was no on board service except safety checks and trash collection which was expected. 

I also got an exit row to myself both ways which was nice for a sub-$50 USD each way basic economy flight. 

About 80% of the passengers wore masks on my flight. Unfortunately most of them wore it wrong or took it off at times which defeated the purpose. 

Overall the Delta pandemic handling was better in my opinion. Reassuring passengers and offering small extras like a snack bag with a sanitizing wipe can go a long way with worried passengers. 

Flying during this uncertain time was odd. Quiet empty airports, flights, and lots of cancellations like I have never seen before.