Flying Internationally During A Pandemic
By Justine Schock
The following article is the personal experience of our writer on August 13 and September 5, 2020. Every airport, airline, and day of the week will be different, and procedures are subject to change. Travelers should always consult travel restrictions in their country of residence, along with your medical insurance provider to decide if traveling during the pandemic is right for you.
PART 1: Los Cabos to Seattle with layover in San Jose, California
As a full-time Los Cabos resident, friends and clients frequently ask me what Cabo has been like since COVID-19 forced a lockdown back in March 2020. I am happy to report that overall, I’ve been very impressed by the safety measures Los Cabos has enforced to keep our City as safe as possible for tourists and residents. Visitors can expect to have their temperatures taken and hands sanitized upon entering restaurants and grocery stores, shoe disinfecting mats at the entry of all businesses and resorts, and face masks are currently required city wide (although as with anywhere you go, not everyone follows this rule). Friends who have recently visited from the U.S. have reported much stricter requirements in Los Cabos compared to back home.
First let me start by saying that due to my personal health issues, I was very reluctant to fly. But like many expats, I still have things that need to be taken care of in the U.S. and pushing back my trip was no longer an option. Now that Terminal 2 (our International Terminal) has reopened, arriving at Los Cabos International Airport was a breeze. The airport itself was pretty empty, and travelers were for the most part respecting social distancing rules. Upon entering the airport, I was asked for my travel itinerary and walked through the disinfecting shoe mats. Unticketed passengers were not allowed inside the terminal as of mid-August. Expats who need to visit Immigration prior to check in can temporarily find their “office” at the last ticket counter, instead of at the end of the terminal where it used to be. Check in at the Alaska Airlines counter was a little slower than normal with only 1 customer service agent and a rescue dog in tow (more about that later). But with so few people in line, and arriving early as suggested by the airline, it wasn’t an issue at all. A new simple health questionnaire is required and reviewed by an agent just before you enter security. Unfortunately, most of the food kiosks were closed inside the terminal so I strongly suggest you bring your own snacks.
Boarding the plane was also very quick due to the plane being only about a 1/3rd full. Alaska Airlines has limited the number of passengers on board and blocked middle seats through November 30, 2020 making distancing easier, and masks are required for every passenger over 2 years old. In flight food and beverage options have changed…don’t expect a glass of wine, cocktail or any food for purchase right now. Travelers were offered a choice between water, juice or soda, and given a small snack, and flight attendants mostly stayed out of the way.
Once we landed in San Jose, California, I went through Customs and Immigration as usual. Signs were posted everywhere reminding travelers to use facemasks and social distance, and the terminal was fairly quiet too. Sadly, there weren’t many food kiosks open at this airport either so I’m very thankful I brought my own! Last stop…Seattle, Washington. SEATAC International Airport was the busiest of the three, but I was still able to distance myself, pick up my bags and be on my way.
For those of you wondering about the rescue dog, I always try to escort a rescue animal when I fly out of Los Cabos. I’ve taken as many as three dogs at one time. The homeless pet population is a big problem in Los Cabos and most Baja rescue organizations adopt dogs and cats to the west coast of the United States and Canada, or beyond. Volunteers, fosters, and flight escorts are always in need! Today’s rescue, a 10lb chihuahua named ‘Tita’ was from Baja Critters, but I’ve also fostered and escorted for Adopta Los Cabos, BAJA Safe and El Ranchito. As a flight escort, the organization does most of the work to make the process as easy as possible for the person flying. They set up the pet reservation with the airline, pay the fee, and meet you at the airport with the animal before the flight. Small animals can fly in cabin, or larger dogs can fly in baggage depending on the type of plane and time of year. Once you reach your destination, another volunteer will be waiting at the baggage claim to retrieve the animal and health paperwork, and then your good deed for the day is done. If you are interested in being a flight escort, join the group “Cabo Pet Escorts” on Facebook for more information!
Overall, my first day of travel was a lot easier and less crowed than I expected and I felt very safe with all the additional procedures in place. Now to enjoy some time in the Emerald City!
PART 2: Seattle to Los Cabos with layover in Los Angeles, California
Flying back to Cabo San Lucas was a lot busier than my flights just a few weeks before. Of course I traveled through LAX on a Saturday which is typically a very busy day and active airport for Mexico travel. Some areas in the airport like the boarding and security line made it impossible to social distance, but with everyone required to wear masks, I still felt comfortable. There was a different health questionnaire to fill out, but otherwise the process was the same. Once landing in Cabo, I noticed a sense of calm once again. I made it through Immigration, baggage claim, and Customs in less than 20 minutes (despite getting the dreaded Customs red light that so many of us expats know all too well)! All in all, I am no longer nervous to travel during the pandemic and found the whole experience to be very painless and stress free. I hope this article will give some of you who have been reluctant to travel to Cabo a little piece of mind. Los Cabos is open and ready to welcome you back for a safe and fun vacation, with personal attention and service like you’ve never experienced before!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Justine is a Real Estate Agent and Marketing Director for REmexico Real Estate and Destino Los Cabos Magazine. She has been a full time Los Cabos resident for almost 5 years. Follow her adventures on Facebook or Instagram @LosCabosLiving