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When I Fly Again – Do I Avoid or Seek Out Smaller Airports (like South Bend SBN)?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


I have no plans to get on a jet this year. I am hopeful that, maybe, in Q1 of 2021 it may be safe-ish to fly again. Then again, it may be MUCH later than that before I am willing to risk it.

From Delta.com flight search

Either way, I am now contemplating where I will want to start my trip. My hometown airport is South Bend, Indiana, or SBN. Living where I do in the Midwest, I have the luxury of driving about two hours to fly out of Midway (MDW) in Chicago – but for now, Delta had dumped service in and out of MDW. It takes me about 3 hours to drive to O’Hare (or ORD) as well as to Detroit (DTW) or Indy (IND). All of the latter means I would begin my travels on a mainline jet vs. a tiny Delta CRJ200.

Booking Screen-shot from Delta.com

Regular blog readers know my utter disdain for the horrid and evil (yes evil) CRJ200 Delta connection regional partner jets. Blocking a seat on one side of the jet means only half of those onboard get “space for safer travel“?

Seat next to a toilet onboard a Delta Connection CRJ-200 regional jet.

Hum… COVID19 has had a massive impact on the number of Delta flights in and out of SBN (but better than some regional airports that Delta simply ended service to). Even so, there are real personal benefits of flying out of a smaller airport and maybe even more so now with COVID19 part of the equation.

There is no CLEAR for me to simply have my eyes scanned at the TSA checkpoint but there is, sometimes, PreCheck. Either way, there rarely are lines — so this part of the trip is quick and painless at smaller airports like SBN.

Even before COVID19, there has been lots of room in the large single SBN concourse to distance me away from other travelers. But then I have to get on the very tiny CRJ200 and I am just not sure the benefits of flying locally outweigh the cost of driving to a larger airport with “real” Delta jets.

I am really struggling with this one and would love your input. Would you feel safer starting at a smaller airport like SBN or less safe compared to a larger airport? What about tiny jets vs. large Delta jets? When Delta removes the blocked seats for safety will it impact your choice to travel? Help me figure this one out please! – René

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

5 Comments

  1. I’m in a similar situation with the closest airport having only CRJ200s. The airport is really tiny — only one gate is in use and food consists only of vending machines. But that said, I think many small airports are empty enough and sparse enough that I think the airports themselves are much safer than larger ones as far as COVID-19.

    But the 200’s? Well, very full, very small, no HEPA filters. I think I’ll pass on those.

  2. I read the biggest risk is person-to-person transmission, more than surfaces. If you board the CJ, there are fewer people you get close to, but if you fly to a hub and then board another full size jet, you still have lots of contact over a longer period of exposure time.

    I’m planning on waiting for the vaccine before I fly again. I’m redesigning my work to be more virtual-friendly. Most customers are open to try it.

    As far as pleasure travel or mileage runs, forget it. If I’m dead, the Skymiles won’t transfer!

  3. Tough one, Rene. Struggling with it myself. We live in Tucson and love our airport. Our alternative is Phoenix, about an hour and a half drive.

    I think Tucson is big enough that the answer for us will be Tucson. Big jets with hepa filters. We have a flight from Tucson to Anchorage, connection Seattle coming up. Alaska air has a great video telling what they are doing to protect against COVID.

    Here’s another one to ponder. Right now, accommodations are big because nobody is flying. They are blocking seats for better distancing with an implication that they won’t be blocking seats forever. Is it safer now than it will be Q1 ’21?

    Back to the issue. Every time we go to Phoenix, it’s a hassle. More people, more problems. Big airports just flat seem to have more hazards. Distancing, I would think, would be harder, from parking lot all the way to boarding. But, on the other hand, lounges are more likely to be open.

    Tough one. Interested in everyone else’s opinion.

  4. Bourne Remy Reply

    Just flew from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City on to San Jose this past Tuesday and back same way Saturday .
    Delta d had blocked middle seats and first class had one row window next row aisle.

    In first class most wore mask except one most of the time.

    Very enjoyable flights

  5. My in-laws live in ROC. All flights from NYC are on regional planes and never mainline. So, having status, I often take advantage of same day confirmed option to use mainline jets and connect in MSP or ATL. Sure, it adds travel time, but it also gives me additional mileage towards my 3rd million mile mark!!!

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