If you must get out of the house, the safest place to be in Texas right now might just be the airport.
While all restaurant and business capacity restrictions, mask mandates, and other measures to slow the spread of COVID have been lifted statewide, there are a few places where masks are still required. Among those places are airports that facilitate interstate travel.
Interstate commerce, including interstate transportation, falls under the authority of the federal government. On January 21, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring that masks be worn in airports, on commercial aircraft, on trains, and on bus routes between cities. That order remains in effect no matter what provisions are in place at the state level.
Masks and contactless check-in at DFW
At Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the home airport for American Airlines and a major international travel hub, signage at entrances reminds airport visitors that mask-wearing is mandatory within the airport. Security personnel stationed near ticketing counters and airport entrances stand ready to remind travelers of the mask requirements. All personnel throughout the airport were fully masked, and American Airlines is rolling out contactless bag check for some passengers.
American Airlines recently announced that all employees who had been notified of a planned furlough on April 1 could tear up that furlough notice and return to work. This was thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which provided payroll protection loans and other assistance for businesses large and small, including employers in the hard-hit travel industry.
Lighter travel with some crowding
Passenger traffic at DFW seemed lighter today than one would expect for a weekday during spring break. There were about 1300 parking spaces left in Lot A parking as of noon on Thursday, March 11, though many of those were on the top, uncovered level of the renovated parking garage. Still, many families with young children were checking in bags and heading through security.
Older couples and retirees also dotted the airport terminals. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, 31 per cent of Americans age 65 or older are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. New guidelines published by the the Centers for Disease Control suggest that fully vaccinated seniors can safely visit younger family members who are at low risk of contracting the illness. Solo travelers and business travelers were also well-represented beyond security.
Unfortunately, the gate area near a flight boarding in terminal A was distressingly crowded, and passengers did not seem to be observing social distancing protocols.
Airline clubs offering limited service
American Airlines has an Admirals Club lounge open in Terminals A, B, C, and D for members of its frequent flyer program.
Covid protocols in place in the Admirals Club lounge included contactless check-in and socially distanced seating. Capacity restrictions were not posted, but the lounge area was lightly populated at the noon hour, with ample seating at more than six feet of social distance from neighboring parties.
There are currently no self-serve food options in Admirals Club lounges at DFW Airport, but prepared and packaged snacks are available for sale via credit card swipe at a refrigerated kiosk near the lounge entry. Full bar service is available, and restaurant food is available to order, though the lounge is currently not handing out menus to reduce the risk of Covid spread. Basically, if you want to grab a bite to eat, you may need to pay—even as a frequent flyer.
This reporter, fully vaccinated, double masked, and sporting a face shield to boot, felt much safer in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and on an American Airlines flight than she would just about anywhere else in Texas besides her own home.
Whether you are traveling for an emergency, for work, for a long-delayed family gathering, or for a much-needed mental health break, you can rest assured that extensive Covid safety measures remain in place in the air and on the ground at airports—even here, deep in the heart of Texas.
Photo credit: L.D. Burnett, © 2021