By Patrick Murphy

Aside from masks, flying during a pandemic is not all that different than

flying without a pandemic.

Flew from Omaha to Phoenix, Ariz., this week to see family and to take a

quick break from winter, and the experience was much the same as every time

we flew before the coronavirus hit.

Airports are crowded because people are anxious to be some place other

than their homes.

Crowded airports means staying 6-feet away from one another is virtually

impossible even if people actually tried to do that.

Airports do make an attempt to keep passengers apart when they can by

slowing the boarding of the plane. When boarding, just 10 people at a time

were allowed to get on the plane, and when we got off the plane, they

released people three rows at a time, and asked people not to stand in the

aisle while waiting to deplane. Most people followed instructions.

The planes were pretty full, which meant little opportunities to spread


My wife and I were lucky enough there was a seat open between us, so we

didn't have to share arms rests or worse, wonder if the stranger sitting

next to us was healthy.

Everyone kept their masks on, as far as I could see, and airports made

several announcements about the need to wear a mask, wear it over your nose

and mouth, and the penalties if you do not comply.

This was the first crowds I have been in since the pandemic hit, and it

was impossible to avoid people in airports because they are all around.

Still I kept my mask on and tried to separate from people whenever


There are lines to get food in the airport, lines to board the plane,

lines to use the bathroom, lines to get your luggage and lines to get off

the plane. People wherever you turned.

People want to be out and about because it feels more like living again

than staying home, and everyone needs to feel like they are living again.

I was happy to be traveling, and really happy to be away from the cold and

snow, even just for a few days, but I can't say I felt completely safe and


Being around so many people was a little unnerving, especially when you

consider there are more people crammed into airports than I am used to

being around.

I can usually navigate life with few interactions, but that is impossible

when you use mass transit. Keeping 6-feet apart is impossible, and most

people do not even try. I was conscious when I went through security and

had to wait for my carry-on items to go through the x-ray machine, and

people stood next to me waiting for their stuff. I tried to step back and

away from people, but others were not as mindful of keeping their distance.

That is part of the hazards of traveling, dealing with other people, and

the best I could do is make sure I’m doing what I need to do to stay away

from people and keep my mask on.

You hope everyone is just as conscientious, but when it comes to other

people, you never know.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.