“Why are we still flying? Is this necessary? “
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly has asked these questions from employees almost every day since the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the country, turning airports into ghost towns.
Kelly and other airline executives always have the same answer: because some people still need to fly.
On Tuesday, the airline was tweeted about the lung critical care doctor who is the only passenger on the flight. Doctors voluntarily travel to the West Coast to help treat coronavirus patients.
In addition to doctors, nurses, and other first responders who flew at the forefront of the pandemic, current manifest passengers include people such as brain cancer patients Joanna Hoskins and 2-year-old Roderick Owens, whose wife is being treated at a Detroit hospital with coronavirus.
Four passengers shared their story with USA TODAY.
‘He must have this chemotherapy’
Meghan Hoskins was worried when she saw an email from Alaska Airlines on Monday.
He was afraid that his Easter Sunday flight from Great Falls, Montana, to Seattle would be canceled because the airline had cut flights.
“That was the biggest worry for me,” said the mother of seven 36-year-old children. “I keep wondering if that will happen because Great Falls is a small town.”
The latest Hoskins trip to Seattle last week only had six passengers; drive home, a dozen, max.
Not flying, even to one of the first coronavirus hot spots in the US, is not an option for the Hoskins family.
Joanna “Jojo ‘Hoskins, a 2½-year-old daughter of the family, received chemotherapy treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital for medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. She underwent surgery at the hospital last year to remove a brain tumor and has returned every week since December for chemotherapy.
“He must have this chemotherapy,” Hoskins said.
The family initially drove the car for four hours to greater Kalispell, Montana, but it became unsustainable during the winter storm, so their pediatrician referred them to Miracle Flights, a charity that offers free flights for medical treatment to patients who meet conditions and their families or carers thanks to partnerships with airlines and donations.
“So many of our children have rare diseases, and there are only one or two places in the country that treat these diseases or certain conditions,” said Miracle Flights CEO Mark Brown. “Some of them are forced to roll dice and jump on airplanes, which is not necessarily what they want to do now.”
Fortunately, Brown said, “airlines are still flying and are taking big steps to limit exposure.”
Hoskins said he was worried every time he headed for the airport with Jojo.
“I’m a Christian. My faith is in God. But I’m human, and I’m just worried about my daughter and want to protect her, “he said.” It’s very difficult. Wherever you go, you have to think that COVID-19 is everywhere. “
Hoskins said Alaska Airlines was very good at allowing him and Jojo to get on a plane and put them away from other passengers because Jojo’s immune system was compromised.
He added a lot of precautions himself, too, bringing his own whitening tissue.
“I cleaned everything I thought he might touch, including our rental car,” he said.
If Jojo has signs of illness, the family postpones a trip to Seattle. In March, the child had the flu, so they rescheduled last week’s trip while waiting for the results of the coronavirus test. The result is negative again.
They were quarantined when they returned home.
Hoskins Easter Sunday Flights, operated by Alaska subsidiary Horizon Air, are still active. Email on Monday is about changes in flight time.
But Hoskins knew that non-stop services might eventually be cut or removed. And then the family has to make some decisions.
Chemotherapy is not offered in Great Falls, but they can return to treatment in Kalispell.
“If we have to, we can drive,” he said. “It’s not bad, but it’s not an easy trip to do with a toddler. He experienced a lot of nausea. He tends to throw up when he is in the car for too long. “
From Las Vegas to the side of his sick wife
Roderick Owens has been flying from Detroit to Las Vegas every week as a contractor at the new NFL Raiders stadium for the past five months.
He was scheduled to go home on Friday, but this time was very urgent. His wife was hospitalized that day due to pneumonia and coronavirus, and he really wanted to be by her side.
Owens, 57, said he knew the airline was operating on a reduced schedule, but he had never received a warning from Frontier that the April 3 flight was canceled. He tried calling CheapOair, the third-party website that he used to book his flights, and couldn’t contact customer service.
Owens left for the airport before his flight, but mentally he prepared for the worst.
“My determination is that if I can’t fly out of here … I jump in my car and I’m driving,” said Owens, an electronics technician. “I’m a little worried that I won’t succeed, I won’t be able to get it. I will run out of time.”
Owens arrived at McCarran International Airport and was empty. He walked about 1,000 yards before he saw an airport representative who told him that his flight was canceled and that he had received credit.
But all hope is not lost. That night, a colleague whose wife worked for Delta Airlines helped him book a nonstop flight to Detroit scheduled for April 6.
Owens, wearing a black bandana secured with a sweat band instead of a mask, was one of three passengers on the Delta flight.
The flight home was hazy, said Owens, adding that he was tired and wanted to get his wife. He remembers the stewardess distributing grab bags with Cheez-Its, hand tissue and bottled water.
When he got home, his wife’s condition improved. Since then he has been released from hospital, and they are at home with strict quarantine instructions, Owens said.
“Considering the diagnosis, I thank God,” he said.
Cross-country travel for the birth of a baby
Bridgitte Rodguez is determined to go to San Francisco for the birth of her sister’s baby.
In recent weeks, he has become increasingly worried that travel restrictions will stop him flying out of New York City as planned April 27.
He also worried that with New York at the center of the corona virus case, he could expose his sister and newborn baby.
So Rodguez came up with Plan B.
He booked an earlier flight to his parents’ home in San Diego, where he would quarantine for 14 days before driving to San Francisco for the April 29 due date. His sister’s doctor, he said, agreed with the plan.
After several flight changes and one cancellation, Rodguez was able to get an April 3 flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to San Diego.
Rodguez said that when he arrived at the airport, there were about 20 people in the TSA line, most of them wearing gloves and masks. Most of the restaurants and shops in the terminal, he said, were closed.
“That’s very strange,” said Rodguez, 36. “It’s just weird because I fly out of the same terminal at JFK several times a year and to know that it’s always this crowded place.”
Rodguez said he did not wear gloves or masks but washed his hands at least three times at the airport and brought hand sanitizer.
When it was time to get on the plane, said Rodguez, there were about 15 other passengers. He sat in the chair assigned to a row for himself. Most of the lines around it are also empty.
When the plane arrived at San Diego International Airport, Rodguez said he was surprised no one had advised him to quarantine since he came from New York.
“To be honest, I don’t think I should be allowed to fly across the country,” said Rodguez. “But I don’t want to miss the chance to be here.”
Transfer earlier than planned to Oklahoma
Nathan Hiatt bought a one-way ticket from Phoenix to Oklahoma City last week, moving up post-graduation planned after Arizona State University switched to online classes for the remainder of the semester.
Hiatt, a 23-year-old student majoring in sports journalism, has heard reports of a possible airport closure and considers it unreasonable to stay.
“I don’t want to risk traffic in Arizona,” he said.
Hiatt can’t drive because he never gets a SIM. He said he was only “a little” nervous about flying during a pandemic. His mother, who lives in Michigan, was more worried.
“But he always worries whenever I fly,” he said.
Hiatt took several precautions ahead of his American Airlines flight on April 2, cleaning his hands at every opportunity at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and wearing a sweater despite Arizona temperatures of 80 degrees so he could use casings to open the door. He only carried a tote bag and sent the rest of his belongings.
Hiatt said there were only three people on the TSA line, and the gate area for flights was empty. He heard employees talking 20 minutes before the flight and worried they would cancel.
12:10 a night flight, an American Eagle flight operated by Mesa Airlines, departs according to plan.
The only passenger on the regional 79-seat jet: Hiatt.
Instead of his assigned window seat, 15A, the crew moved him to first grade and treated him as if he were on a private plane.
“The pilot came and said,” Welcome to your flight, Nathan, “Hiatt said.
When the flight landed at Will Rogers World Airport and got off, the crew told the airline representative that Hiatt was the only passenger.
“They only laughed for a few minutes,” he said.
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