March 17, 2020 was the last time the gates were open to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida. 119 days later the MAGIC is set to return. Like everyone else, you may wonder what is it going to be like flying back to the Magic. We want to share our experience while flying back to the magic with you! You will also find a few tips that might help you along the way.
Our Experience While Flying
What’s the first thing you notice when you walk into the airport? People right!?! Not this time. Here is our experience while flying back to Disney World during the “new normal”.
The Airport Experience
The first thing I noticed was sanitation stations standing alone in an empty ticketing area. Both travelers and airport personnel were all wearing some type of face-mask, whether it be an N95 mask, neck gaiter, disposable or homemade mask. For a midweek flight on a holiday afternoon, the airport was empty. I may have counted 20 people in the Terminal D check-in area. Ticket agents seemed to be smiling underneath their masks as they were finally seeing some sort of personal interaction with travelers again. After being greeted with a warm welcome, it was business as usual: driver’s license and ticket please.
Off we go to the security section. My wife and I both have TSA Pre-Check as we find it very convenient especially when traveling through our favorite airport in Orlando Florida. This helps speed up the security process. Upon arrival to the security check-in, we were notified that TSA-Pre-check has temporarily been suspended in terminal D at Philadelphia International Airport. If you decide to fly within the next few months you may want to check with your local airports. Orlando International Airport is currently accepting TSA Pre-check, so no worries there. After entering the security checkpoint area 6’ distance markers were placed on the floor to help with social distancing. An agent was there to remind guests to keep their face-masks on from their chin to their nose and to practice social distancing. Once we arrived at the TSA agent who checked our Identification and ticket, we were asked to lower our face-mask for visual confirmation.
- Please note that the previous TSA travel advisory of having to have a Real ID to travel beginning on October 1, 2020 has been postponed until October 1, 2021
After visual verification, you will proceed like normal to x-ray scanners and follow the standard security procedures that are already in place. You are allowed to bring a 12 oz container of hand sanitizer per traveler in your carry-on luggage at this time. Please be aware that this may cause a delay as it would need to be screened separately from your normal 3.4 oz. liquid allowance. Once through the security check-point there are sanitation stations located throughout the terminals and gates of the airport. We noticed this at both Philadelphia and Orlando airports.
So Far So Good…Into The Gates
Unfortunately, there are no social distance markers once you proceed to the gates. You will see people in every available seat at your departing gate. We chose to sit four gates down and kept an eye on our departing gate when people started to move when lining up. Yes, I said it. People still line up and block the entrance way to gates because, well, I don’t know why. Everyone has assigned seats and are going to the same place but old habits are hard to break. Some airlines have changed their boarding process. This may be a good thing for future traveling and will load from the back of the plane forward, clearing the aisle ways. This makes for a quicker loading procedure. Again this is some airlines. Not all have changed their boarding procedures.
Boarding The Plane
After you board your plane, you will definitely notice the cleanliness of it. Makes you wonder why did it take a Pandemic to change the health and safety of the travelers? Leaving on a holiday weekend, our plane was full which did cause a little anxiety with that many people in such a little space. However, we were lucky and had a germaphobe next to us that wiped their areas as well as ours with sanitizing wipes. If you travel on one of the budget friendly airlines, it might help to pay a little extra for the seats in the front. Those only have two seats per row and are more spread out.
The airline attendants did their best to make everyone feel comfortable with the announcements including the safety and cleaning techniques used on the planes. Once in the air, most services have been suspended, such as alcohol, soft drinks and snacks. The services provided will depend upon the airline you are flying with. All passengers are required to wear their mask for the duration of the flight and if an attendant does notice you sneaking it to the side or sliding it down your face they will remind you of the safety guidelines. Our flight was rather short at just over two hours and we wore the N95 masks. The masks were comfortable and had no issues with keeping them on for the duration.
Departing The Plane
Once we departed the plane, a hand sanitation station was located at our arrival gate. It seemed like everyone was using it in front and behind us as well. Again when we landed in Orlando, we saw sanitation stations throughout. Announcements over the airport PA system about keeping with social distancing and using proper hygiene. There is a disappointing part. The social distancing at the baggage claim was the same as the departing gate. There were no noticeable social distance markers in the baggage claim area, with the exception of a few aerial signs that no one paid attention to. We also noticed that some of the younger and teenage children were starting to pull their masks down. It seemed to become bothersome to them. Check out this blog for tips on how to get your child to wear their masks.
Overall we felt very comfortable and safe flying with all the new safety and health precautions the airlines and airports have put in. There will be certain situations that may feel uncomfortable at times, but be smart and use your head and know your surroundings.
TIPS to enhance your experience while flying back to the magic!
- Bring hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes in your check-in luggage
- Move to an empty gate near your designated departure gate to help with the social distancing
- Check what services are available at your airport, including TSA Pre-check
- Check with your airline on what services are available in-flight
- Clean your area when entering the plane
- If you have an aisle seat, wait to enter till the end so you do not have to have all the passengers walking by you
- There are currently limited restaurants and shops open. It would be best to check with your local airport for what shops and restaurants are available
Do you have any tips to help everyone’s experience while flying back to the magic? Join our Facebook group, DISNEY EXPRESS LANE and let’s talk!
Thank you to our friend Vince and his sweet wife Tammy for telling us all about their experience.
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