GSP-ATL-MCO Southwest 737-700. Slightly less boring flying during COVID-19

Hello, I’m Valerie and I’m guest-starring on my husband’s kinda boring travel blog (not that I think it’s boring, don’t murder me hubby!). None of you know me, but if you did, you’d know that of course I started writing this blog post while on the plane! That’s just me, the overachiever 🙂 So as you read this, you will be going along on the journey with me as I live-blog through my experience!

We decided to risk the pandemic to go visit my family down in Florida for the long 4th of July weekend. We decided to take this trip before the big spike we’ve been seeing in the last few weeks. It’s probably not the smartest idea but hopefully we will stay safe. James flew down a few days before me, which he will detail in another post, so I was heading down there by myself.

Now, when my husband asks me to document my flight experience on my solo Southwest flight from GSP-MCO routing through ATL (no plane change), and to “take a lot of pictures”, well I think he underestimated just how many I actually take! I’m usually taking pictures of other parts of our travel, like scenery, landmarks, and of course the food. Because what millennial doesn’t take photos of their food?! Anyway, I took a lot of photos on this trip because, well, it was just a gosh darn nice day to fly. Hopefully it doesn’t bore you too much.

On This Trip

1: GSP-ATL-MCO Delta 717 Economy and Delta 757-200 Economy. More Covid Flying

2 :GSP-ATL-MCO Southwest 737-700. Slightly less boring flying during COVID-19

     2.1: GSP Airport
     2.2: Southwest 737-700 Review
     2.3: ATL Southwest Same-Plane Transfer/COVID Cleaning Process
     2.4: Southwest 737-700 Review Part 2
     2.5: Exiting into MCO
     2.6: Conclusion/Thoughts about traveling during COVID

3: MCO Aiport Cell Phone Lot: How much more boring could this be

3: MCO Aiport Cell Phone Lot: How much more boring could this be

4: GNV-ATL-GSP Delta CRJ900 Comfort+ and Delta A321 Economy. Heading home from Florida.

GSP Airport

My photo journey starts at the gate, because I was too wrapped up while getting into the airport after losing an earring putting on my dang mask, and getting through TSA, which was a breeze in pre-check as per usual at GSP.

Most everyone in the boarding area is wearing a mask, but not 100%, and I had to move seats a few times as non-maskers kept sitting too close to me.

Here’s my Southwest 737-700 aircraft parked at the gate in Terminal A.

We were slightly delayed due to some bad weather in ATL. They had boarded about half of the plane before they stopped. I was one of the lucky ones who hadn’t boarded yet, so I get to hang out in the terminal and charge my phone. No outlets to be found on this aircraft, so I’m happy for the extra juice on the ground.

During boarding, we still grouped into A, B, and C groups like on a typical Southwest flight, but instead of herding all 60 people per group into the boarding area they called 10 people up at a time to wait in their spots. As soon as those 10 people started to board, they called up the next 10. It was going well until group B started boarding, in which everyone proceeded to get amnesia and crowded into the area like it was normal non-COVID times.

The GSP airport also had some clever social distancing signage. I missed a really funny one as I advanced in line, but it was something like “You’re the one who asked for a long distance relationship”. Luckily I caught this one on my way up to the scanner.

When it was my time to board, a lady in front of me didn’t have a mask on, so the gate agent asked if she had a mask. She dug around in her purse and showed it to the agent. She was walking away when the agent said, “Ma’am I have to ask you to please put it on while you board.”, and so she did. It was nice to see the rules being enforced properly. 

Southwest 737-700 Review

So far, the experience with Southwest during COVID-19 times (should we start calling it A.R. for After ‘Rona?) has been comparable to our last A.R. trip on Delta, with the exception of assigned seating. Southwest is still allowing passengers to seat themselves, although they asked for us to keep middle seats open unless you are traveling with your family which then you can all sit together and use a middle seat.

Most people decided to sit toward the front and middle of the plane. Seeing as I wanted to stay as far away from most people, I headed toward the back, roughly row 18 or 19 out of 24.

The back was pretty empty and I got a window seat in a row by myself. Luckily no one ended up sitting in my row either. Score!

The plane seems clean(ish. My seat back pocket had someone’s leftover crackers stowed away).

No seat-back entertainment system. Looks like my flight will be pretty boring after all!

Also, we were told there will be no drink/snack service on this short flight from GSP-ATL. I probably won’t be getting Cheez-its at all this trip, unfortunately to break with this blog’s tradition, but maybe some delicious Southwest honey roasted peanuts on the next flight? A girl can only dream.

Pushing back from GSP.

And we’re off! Takeoff was smooth with some beautiful views of the Greenville area:

Not quite sure which lake this is, but it’s pretty.

GSP in the distance.

Downtown Greenville, front and center!

As we approach ATL, after a short 15 minutes of airtime at 10,000 feet, I remember that there was supposed to be some weather (cue “The weather outside is weather” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall), so I try to take some pictures of it. Looks good, must have cleared up!

Well, maybe not. Also, turbulence. Now I remember why I don’t type/read while flying *vomit emoji*

Nah, I’m good. Starting to get hungry though, and I remember a turkey, hummus, and veggie wrap I have stowed away in my backpack for dinner. My connection in ATL has me staying on the same plane, although I’m curious what the procedure will be during A.R. times, considering the Southwest website said they would be cleaning the aircraft between flights, so maybe they will have us deplane? We shall see.

Landing in ATL on a Southwest flight with “Fly Delta Jets” in the backround. LOL.

Pulled into C terminal, next to C1. I can’t see which gate we’re at but if I had to guess probably C2 or C3 (my very best actual guess, I really don’t know the layout).

ATL Southwest Same-Plane Transfer/COVID Cleaning Process

So, after we land and get the announcements, it looks like I’m staying on the aircraft to transfer to MCO. I can’t say I’ve ever been on a flight that didn’t have a plane change, it feels weird to not have to run through ATL to try and make my next flight.

Apparently we have a crew change too, so I have to stay seated for now and once we get our new crew to count the passengers going to MCO then I can get up and stretch my legs and use the facilities. I’m going to try and avoid that one. Seems like a ‘Rona magnet.

Most people are getting up and out. A dad with 2 daughters reminded them to pull their masks up as they had dropped below their noses. Good Dad Award.

 I’m one of 5 continuing on to MCO. A cleaning crew is coming on board to clean the aircraft around those of us remaining.

They closed all the overhead bins and are starting to wipe down the seats. There’s only 1 guy I can see so far doing this. I wonder how long it might take one person to do the whole plane.

A crew member just put up a bag with a label on the handle saying “Not Yours”, I should copy that. 

So to get things moving faster, 2 flight attendants joined in on the cleaning fun because the poor guy in the orange vest had it in over his head. Seriously Southwest, one person for a whole 737-700?

So while the kinda boring cleaning process was underway and there were a minimum amount of people on board, I decided to take a break from amateur guest blogging and break open my bag dinner. Not as exciting as a bag of Cheez-its but it’ll have to do.

Also I noticed that the cleaning crew was not cleaning the tray tables and locks. So I avoided that like the ‘Rona (new phrase). So here I am, eating my wrap in my lap. I should be a poet.

People are starting to board now. Stay away from me!!

Looks like an emptier flight so far. Only 1 person behind me a few rows back, and one person diagonally across.

Okay, I spoke too soon again. Definitely too soon. This might be a crowded flight.

Luckily I ended up with my own row. I must have RBF (resting b*tch face) even with a mask on. I guess sometimes it’s a good thing.

A United employee sitting across from my row diagonally has taken off her mask, or at least is putting it up over her mouth and not her nose when someone comes by. That’s pretty disgraceful, especially for an airline employee. Shame on United. No one has stopped to correct her yet. I’m waiting, Southwest.

Southwest 737-700 Review Part 2

A flight attendant gets on the mic:

“Going to Indianapolis right? Just kidding!”

“We won’t be having drink/snack service because of weather.” Great, no snacks again. I’m glad I brought my own bag dinner.

“Welcome aboard…board…board” in decreasing volume.

“I must ask you to smell your own breath for about an hour” because of masks. I’m stealing this.

“We’ll come around to collect sani-wipes, we need those. We reuse them. Just kidding. We eat them. What is wrong with me!?”

Southwest flight attendants always know how to brighten a traveler’s day, even in a time as stressful as a pandemic.

Here’s a shot of my seat, can you spot the difference? Same seat, different leg crossed. For continuity purposes. Just kidding, I didn’t notice, it’s just a coincidence.

The pilot came on and said “Normally we ask an Orlando flight if anyone is going to Disney World, Universal, or Sea World, but…” Then he asked if anyone was going to Universal since it’s open, a few hands went up. Brave souls. I wouldn’t touch a theme park right now with a 1000 ft pole.

We’re a little delayed, waiting on gas, we’re a couple thousand pounds short. I can’t even comprehend what that amount looks like.

Phone seems to be dwindling down in battery life. Wishing for those in flight outlets right about now. So now I must choose, blogging and music, or a movie on my phone since there’s no seat-back TV. I guess I’m going with blogging and music since that will hopefully use less battery.

“Grab your seats, squeeze your cheeks, we’re taking off!” from the flight attendant.

Take off was relatively smooth compared to the ride in, considering the weather.

Sorry, you’re going to get the same view out of the plane as the last leg. That’s what you get unfortunately. This part is kinda boring now, unlike the rest of this trip so far.

Starting to get a little bumpy and foggy now. 

Still no one telling United employee to wear her mask properly, even though it’s obvious.

Guy in front of me sneezed. I hope he was wearing his mask *fingers crossed*.

Getting ready to land in the Land o’Lakes. This must be where the name for the butter comes from. (I don’t think that’s true.)

Also the Land o’Many Separate Gated Developments Next To Highways.

Landed. “Woah, big fella!” from the flight attendant, followed with lots of laughs.

“We’re sorry we couldn’t provide you with our *stellar* water service” More amazing Southwest flight attendant comedy.

The United employee passenger has her mask completely off at the time when the Southwest flight attendant says “Make sure your mask is covering your mouth *and* nose when you are exiting the plane”. I guess she just doesn’t care!

Just look at those cumulonimbus clouds against a beautiful sunset backdrop! Hello Florida!

“We’re taking the back roads to get to the gate.”

Upon deplaning, there are so many people with their masks down below their nose and mouth, including previously mentioned United employee. Come on people, do better!

Also, I recalled not seeing the cleaning crew wiping down seat belt buckles earlier, so after unbuckling I quickly used some hand sanitizer. 

Exiting into MCO

Now, it is weeks later that I’m writing this next bit. My phone was dying but I had just enough juice to snap a few pictures and make sure my husband knew where I would be to pick me up! So I will narrate as though I’ve just gotten off the plane and walking through the airport. 

The Southwest gates have very witty signage. There was one even funnier than this but I passed it thinking they were all the same, but they are not, and unfortunately I don’t remember what it said.

Exiting through the MCO airport, I approach the monorail to Disney, I mean, to the main terminal.

Then after arriving at the main terminal station, I pass by the attached inside-out hotel, and out to the curb to be picked up by your regular blog host.

After being picked up, we then navigate through a line of people in cars who have no idea what an airport is and what to do with their cars outside of said airport, and then we’re outta here!

Conclusion/Thoughts about traveling during COVID

If you’ve read this far, thanks for hopefully not being too bored while reading along on my journey! I actually did think it was quite entertaining, mostly thanks to the circumstances surrounding the ‘Rona.

If you’re wondering if it’s safe to travel right now, I would say it mostly is as long as you pick an airline that is taking this seriously. Based on this one experience I can say I think Southwest is doing a good job, although they can do better with sanitizing the plane between flights and reminding their customers of the mask requirement during flight. I would also say that I would not choose to fly United, considering the employee I saw on this Southwest flight was not taking the mask policy seriously at all, and also things I’ve read about other peoples’ experiences on United during COVID.

I can also say that after going on this trip and taking the necessary precautions, we did not (to our knowledge) contract the virus, and did not infect our family. However, do not take that as a given if you decide to take the risk and travel, because you can do everything right and there is still a chance you can contract the virus! Stay safe everyone! Wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear a mask!

Thanks for reading my kinda boring guest post!

-James’ wife, Valerie

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