We’ve grinded through the process of Covid containment. As we strive for more ideal levels, the jet bridge door welcomes eager travelers, albeit with multiple safeguards in place. Every airline has completely overhauled its cleaning and sanitation practices to reassure travelers it’s safe to fly. But does the practice live up to the promise? With American Airlines, indeed, it does.
BOOKING / TICKETING: My February Cabo San Lucas, Mexico trip began with securing flights in January on American Airlines/AA. In every aspect of the process, AA stipulated that facemasks are federally mandated and also provided details on ticket flexibility. The AA “Clean Commitment” was also prevalent, detailing how aircraft are frequently cleaned at stopovers, with longer lasting electrostatic spraying done on the overnights.
MEXICO / BEFORE YOU GO: While the land borders between US and Mexico remain closed, flights have been operating since last year. As of this writing, Mexico requires no pre-departure Covid testing or quarantine upon arrival. Health questionnaires and tourist cards can be completed pre-arrival in paper form or using this app: Mexico Tourist Card – HOME. If there’s any trouble accessing, manual forms are available upon arrival. The CDC DOES require negative Covid test results within 72hrs of return to US. With rare exception, Mexico hotels are providing this testing free of charge for hotel guests, most often onsite without having to travel to a local clinic.
- Tip: Be ready for the new Mexico Tourist Tax effective 1APR2021, approximately $11USD per person. Can be paid online or in person upon arrival/departure.
- Tip: Travel apps make trips a snap!
APPS: Digital passports have arrived. AA partners with VeriFLY which keeps track of health passes, questionnaires, testing results, with future plans for vaccine records. Create a VeriFLY account (https://www.daon.com/products/verifly) prior to departure for fast and easy checkin. Take a selfie, complete passport, other info. It’s wise to get acclimated to this now, it’s fast becoming an integral part of future travels. AIRLINE APPS: Every airline has its own app to check in for flights, track checked bags, complete passport info in advance to expedite airport check in.
AIRPORTS: RDU/Raleigh Durham, my hometown airport, remains a favorite. It’s easy to park, navigate, always clean, efficient with quick TSA processing and orderly flight embarkation. TSA has new plexiglass shields in place, enabling minimal passenger contact. Connecting in CLT/Charlotte on the outbound there was light passenger traffic; many food outlets are still closed. Starbucks had only a few of its many sites open. Arriving in Cabo San Lucas/SJD, there was some confusion over forms with new ones handed out upon arrival but overall, smooth sailing. I returned via DFW where I cleared Customs, using the Skylink train to change terminals. Given DFW is about the size of Montana, be sure to allow generous time between flights, especially for international connections/Customs clearance. Having Global Entry enabled quick processing (https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry); transit time between terminals took longer than expected, heavy passenger traffic throughout. I was able to use the Admirals Club /Terminal C between flights; quite comfortable but unexpectedly busy with lines for food stations.
Onboard: In scrutinizing every element of American’s Clean Commitment, AA checked all the boxes. Experiencing four flights from RDU to Cabo, via Charlotte on the outbound and DFW on the return, there was never a time that AA did not live up to what they advertise. Seats in every gate area were stickered with notices to sit several feet apart. Disinfecting wipes were distributed upon boarding. Crew members were masked and gloved during any passenger interaction. Even the onboard rest rooms were noticeably cleaner. While no longer blocking middle seats, AA is operating at just over 50% capacity, leaving numerous empty seats for passengers to spread out. On the Cabo-DFW flight, there were less than 20 passengers on the entire airplane. I call that opportunity!
Arrival in Cabo San Lucas: all travelers and locals were masked, luggage handlers/ground transportation people, gloved. Even our shoes were sanitized before entering every hotel. They’re as serious about cleanliness in Mexico as we are here, often moreso. No country wants to be the first to send sick people home.
Departure from Cabo: with VeriFLY, a breeze. I’d snapped a pic of my Covid test results, uploaded it to the app, handed my phone to the AA agent for review, after which we both used hand sanitizer.
In fairness, I’ve also flown Delta domestically during the pandemic and enjoyed a similar positive experience. It stands to reason that every airline is doing its utmost to maintain the utmost standards of hygiene, especially high contact surfaces.
To the anxious prospective traveler concerned about sanitation and safety, I say: don’t be, but honor your comfort level. If that means planning now, taking off later 2021 or into 2022, so be it. Skies are clearing, Covid clouds are lifting, so long as we all keep doing our part with public health protocols. Pro advice: book now before prices spike with rising demand. Travel smart!
Experience, travel, these are as education in themselves ~ Euripides