If You Intend To Fly, Airlines Might Not Allow You To Social Distance, My Story

social distancing on airplane


With the number of confirmed cases of what we’re calling ‘The Big Cancel’ increasing by the day, borders closing all around the world and the San Francisco area implementing a shelter in place ordinance through April 7, it’s become clear that other hot spots around the United States are going to follow suit.

New York City will likely be the next major city to call for a shelter in place ordinance. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said that the city is ‘almost there’ in calling for the movement and with the latest reports indicating 923 confirmed cases and 10 deaths in New York City, it’s probably time to lock things down.

So, the wife and I decided to get the hell out of Manhattan on Tuesday night.

Yes, we know literally every single person has been telling people not to fly if you don’t have to, but we figured that the clock was ticking on actually being able to get out of the city before de Blasio made the call. Plus, who knows how long the city could be shut down if a shelter in place order is called for? Being stuck inside a 500 sq ft apartment for weeks on end with both of us working from home sounds miserable.

There was an 8:00 PM Delta flight to Memphis, the closest airport to my hometown, out of LaGuardia. Two one-way tickets for a total of $295, which seeing how it was 3:00 PM when we began looking for a ticket, that’s a tough price to beat. That was the first time I’d ever booked a same-day flight and let me tell you, it was a rush.

We get to LGA, check a bag and get through security in no more than 40 minutes total, which on a normal day that whole process takes a minimum of 90 minutes. Meanwhile, we’ve got the Clorox wipes on deck wiping down the security bins, the seats at the gate and even the bottled water we buy at a self-checkout.

The entire airport was an absolute ghost town, but those that were getting set to get inside of a metal tube and breathe recirculated air for the next few hours were practicing social distancing.

The whole social distancing thing went out the window as soon as we got on the plane, however.

After all 19 of us passengers boarded the plane, which was one of the smaller Delta Connection aircrafts with just 69 seats, we suddenly realized that we were all sitting around each other.

Everyone on the plane sat in the assigned seat that was given to them during the boarding process, but we all assumed we’d be free to spread out during the flight because of, you know, the national emergency the country is under.

The few people in first-class sat side by side and us peasants in economy at the back of the plane were clustered together. Meanwhile, the entire middle section of the plane with Delta Comfort and preferred seats was completely empty, and when I say empty, I mean not one person was sitting in the section. Plus, a handful of economy rows were empty as well.

One woman sitting two rows in front of us took notice and asked the flight attendant why we weren’t practicing social distancing when there are literally 50 open seats on the plane. The flight attendant explained that the seats in front of economy cost extra. The woman, who was very clearly sitting next to a younger guy she did not know, didn’t like that response.

She wanted to make sure the people in first class could hear her say the words ‘social distancing’ again, so she decided to make a bit of a scene, which everyone definitely appreciated.

The flight attendant disappeared to God knows where for the next few minutes after being berated by this woman. Then, without even stopping at the woman’s row and acting like she was writing something down on a notepad, the flight attendant sarcastically said ‘the pilot has achieved proper weight and balance’ shutting down the idea of us moving around the plane to avoid sitting around one another.

We didn’t see that flight attendant for another 10 minutes after she pulled that move.

Yes, while weight and balance is obviously a factor in flying, Delta knew that the flight wasn’t going to be anywhere close to full. If they knew what they were doing, they should have suggested we spread out, at the very least just one person to every set of two seats or a row between one another, but that would have made too much sense.

While everyone on the plane was expecting the passenger to leap out of her seat and chase down the flight attendant, she simply let out a loud ‘ha’ and that was the end of it. Later during the flight, the flight attendant decided to make up for the fact that we were all risking our lives by giving us not one, but two snacks of our choosing.

Social distancing is the most recommended practice when out in public right now, but don’t expect to be able to distance yourself on a Delta flight with 50 open seats on it.