What it’s like flying during the Covid-19 pandemic

Today, I give some insight into what it’s like flying during the COVID-19 pandemic by telling you about our flight to Spokane, WA.

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It doesn’t sound very smart to go flying through the air in a narrow metal tube with dozens of other people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the scientific community debates whether the spread of the virus is droplet or aerosol driven, it’s clear that transmission is much more likely when people are close to each other.  So you can see the problem with modern airplanes, that have been designed to sardine as many people as possible into the cabins.  

If that’s not enough, there are also the natural choke points in the airport for ID and baggage checks.  Finally, there are the myriad of lines for coffee, food, and bathrooms.

In case you’re wondering what it’s like to fly during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve narrated a recent flight the Dr-ess and I took from Los Angeles to Washington state. Hopefully this will help you decide if it’s risk worth taking.

A business trip (without the kids!)

You may know that real estate investing has become an essential part of our investing strategy as we move swiftly to moFIRE. Our strategy so far has focused on out-of-state investing, as the high property values in southern California make it very tough to find cash-flowing property.

The majority of our properties are in Indianapolis, IN. Our portfolio is 80% duplexes and 20% single family homes. For a few reasons, we’re hoping that our next acquisition will be a larger multi-family building. Unfortunately, these seem frustratingly hard to find in Indy.

Here’s a recent update on our rental property portfolio.

So as we considered other possible markets for investment, Spokane, Washington caught our eye. It’s an easy flight from Los Angeles, and has grown rapidly in recent years. Covid-19 activity also seemed significantly lower in Spokane than other metro areas right now.

Since we already had some vacation days carved out, the Dr-ess and I decided to leave the kids at home with the grandparents and au pair, and jet up to Spokane for a 36 hour real estate research trip!

It made us nervous to go flying during the Covid-19 pandemic, but as you’ll see, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it’d be.

Security

Overall, automobile and foot traffic were really light at the airport. The security line didn’t feel busy at all. We flew through security via the Pre-check line in about ten minutes. Everyone was wearing masks, but there were some issues with social distancing.  Groups of passengers were bunched up at various points without the recommended 6 feet of distance in between groups. We kept our distance from other people as much as possible, and were quickly through to the terminal.

Terminal

The airport terminal was noticeably less populated than usual for LAX, which is one of the busiest airports in the world.

There was plenty of space to walk around without any feeling of crowding.

Coffee

The one exception to the spacious feeling was the Starbucks. It seems the need for coffee and caffeine is universal, pandemic or no pandemic.  The Starbucks was bustling with a long line.  The Dr-ess and I had already caffeinated at home, so thankfully didn’t need to join the crowd.

Airplane

We flew Alaska Air, and they had a hybrid approach to social distancing. It was a small airplane so there were two seats in each side of the aisle. One side was completely full, and the other side had one seat intentionally vacant.  It didn’t feel overly crowded, but there was clearly no real attempt to respect six feet of distancing between passengers.

Masking was strictly enforced, and thankfully no passengers made a fuss about this. The Dr-ess and I wore N95 masks for extra protection.

We sat on the side where one seat in each row was left intentionally vacant, but it cost us an extra $35 per ticket. 

Leaving Los Angeles

The mechanics of the flight were of course the same as always, and I had that same thrill of excitement as the plane lifted above the marine fog layer that blankets the LA basin on most mornings.

Video from my window of the plane rising through the fog.

The view

The view from the air was spectacular, but I appreciated it even more than usual. It had been so long since we last flew, so I actually took a moment to enjoy the dramatic California mountains and lifting fog. 

Beverage service

There was a beverage service, but the sight of everyone taking off their masks to drink their coffee and Coke was anxiety provoking. I kept on my mask and politely declined the beverage. 

Approaching Spokane

The flight from Los Angeles to Spokane, WA took only a couple of hours, and after a productive flight writing a few blog posts, we started our descent. The topography was typical of the Pacific Northwest, with beautiful evergreen dotting the city.

Welcome to Spokane!

The Spokane airport was tiny and not crowded, which is exactly what we wanted. We walked from the plane to the rental car counter in just a few minutes, picked up a Ford Fusion, and started our adventure!

Conclusion

As a physician, I know a lot about the dangers of Covid-19. These concerns made us think long and hard before we decided to buy our plane tickets. But in the end, our desire to learn a new real estate market (and spend some time away from the kids) trumped our concerns.

Hopefully this description will help you make an informed decision about flying during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We (literally) survived our trip unscathed, and are excited to start looking for our next investment in beautiful Spokane.

— TDD

Have you flown during the Covid-19 pandemic? How was it? Please comment below, and subscribe for more content!

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Medimentary
1 year ago

TDD,

Thanks for the nice rundown and photos of your flying experience. I’m glad it went well for you. We have only taken some road trips so far and used AirBNB’s while traveling, so the exposure to other people has been minimal. My wife is considering flying in November, so your post will be useful. I noticed you wore N95’s. I’ve had a beard for the past 10 years…may it’s about time I shave!

On a side note, you are really making some progress on your rental property portfolio!
Medimentary recently posted…Communicating Science: When is a Game-Changer a Game-Changer?My Profile

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