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I’m Traveling Today for the First Time in Over a Year (Will I See You at an Airport?)

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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.


Today is a big day for me: I’m taking my first flights since March 2020!

(I received my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine a couple of weeks ago,) There are several new experiences I’m excited to enjoy. Plus, I have a brand new Bento Bag from Nomad Lane I’m eager to try.

Where Am I Going?

Just a quick roundtrip from LAX to Salt Lake City. (If you see me at LAX or SLC  this afternoon, please say hi!)

I look forward to visiting the new Delta Sky Club in Salt Lake City — and the new SLC terminals, in general. Plus, I’d be letting down my readers if I didn’t try the new Old Fashioneds (what a great oxymoron!) and margaritas Delta now offers. 😉

Most of all, I’m thrilled to travel again.

This is the first of eight trips I booked during the past couple of weeks. I have travel planned for almost every month the rest of 2021..

Am I Nervous to Travel Again?

I won’t lie: I’m slightly anxious.

Like, I’m not concerned that I’ll catch COVID-19 — though I acknowledge it’s a minute possibility. (So is choking on my breakfast or getting into an accident on the way to the airport.)

But traveling during a pandemic is a new experience for me. The closest feeling, I guess, is like the first day of school: I have an idea of what to expect and know everything will be fine. There’s a combination of nervousness and excitement

How I Paid for the Trip

Perhaps like you, I’m sitting on a mountain of vouchers from 2020 trips that were canceled. (Well, I was sitting on a bunch until my little shopping spree.)

My roundtrip total was $208.80. I applied a $200 Delta voucher from my Choice Benefits. The outstanding $8.80 was paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

My Platinum status allowed me to jump up to Comfort+ shortly after booking. I chose a bulkhead seat — and, of course, the middle seat is empty because of Delta’s safety protocols in effect through April 30.

The flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City isn’t very long (about 1:45 gate-to-gate there; around 2+ hours on the ride home). Kicking it in Comfort+ for a couple of hours (especially with no one next to me): easy peasy.

But then a tempting buy-up offer appeared: upgrade to first class for $106.43 or 9,900 SkyMiles each way.

And, of course, the seat next to me would remain open. (How often does that happen in first class?!)

Here’s what even better: I’d earn a 50% fare class bonus on MQM because of the upgrade to a premium cabin (Z class). Then that triggers a 75% MQM bonus for the entire trip. So instead of earning 1178 MQM, I’ll haul in about 3093 MQM. And I’ll earn a 75% MQD bonus.

So I took the offer and redeemed 19,800 SkyMiles for the privilege of sitting up front. (Sssh. Don’t tell René. He hates first class monetization. It’ll be our secret, okay?)

First class with an open adjacent seat on a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

First class with an open adjacent seat on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles.

(I like the back rows because I can recline my seat without feeling too guilty 😉 ).

Given that I paid $8.80 out of pocket (the other $200 was a gift from Delta), that comes out to about 3/10 of a cent per MQM. Works for me.

Final Approach

I know many readers have traveled during the pandemic. So it’s not like I’m charting new territory here.

I’m finally comfortable to start popping my head back into the world. (And gosh knows I need some new original pictures for the blog!) I look forward to sharing some reviews with you during the next few days.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/rebius

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.


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27 Comments

  1. Brian P Fisher Reply

    Enjoy your trip! I wanted to see what having empty middle seats was like prior to April 30, so I am mileage running this weekend. I won’t see you in the airport, but I’ll be heading out west! Hoping to experience a few Centurion lounges at SFO, SEA, and JFK for the first time.

    I keep checking for first class buy up opportunities for the bonus MQMs but I haven’t seen them yet. I’ve got great Comfort+ seats secured on each leg, and am hoping to cash in an RUC for the SEA-JFK leg. Should be fun!

  2. I jumped back in last October from CMH-SEA then to RSW in January and I just returned Monday from another SEA visit (with mega MQM) (quick hop to PDX embedded too) and until yesterday had only the first Pfizer dose. Didn’t bother me at all with the seat open next to me. I’ve seen the airport’s gradually fill back up with ATL being almost normal with the odd sights of virtually no business travelers. The added MQM’s are nice, but the empty seat is better. Sad to see that go. You’ll love it back in the sky. Have loved the wide body domestic flights. Was fun while it lasted, but every day brings it closer to how things used to be and stop limiting in the centurion clubs!

    • Chris,

      Good luck with your flights. I have been flying since August with the exception of Dec and Jan. My biggest issue was behavior of people in airports, especially ATL. And OMG, how many people don’t wash after using the rest room.

      Sky club selections are limited and all single serving wrapped for grab and go.

      If it js a full flight delta will upgrade to 1st class and place someone next to you, I found this out the hard way on Easter Sunday.

      I fly again 4/30 to 5/13. To guarantee 2 seats in the way home, I spent a bunch of miles to upgrade atl-pbi to 1st. (About 1.5x your upgrade cost) but this made for a happy girlfriend. Well worth the points.

      Good luck

  3. If only our ‘public health experts’ would stop spreading fear and panic, more people would start traveling.

    Glad you’re hitting the road. 1M people a day are flying, just in the US.
    It’s normal, totally normal.

    Listening to the media and being scared by quacks that you shouldn’t travel after vaccination.
    THAT is not normal (and that removes incentives for people to get vacationed)

  4. Joe Chivas Reply

    You might not want to blog about this trip. There are a lot of travel shamers out there.

  5. Kelly Loeffler Reply

    Glad the pandemic is over in your area. Not sure how you are fully vaccinated considering that they are saying a third shot is needed for variants. Guess you are fine risking it… guess we’ll never get of the cooties pandemic!

    • Considering your go-to wisecrack is comparing COVID to cooties, I’m surprised you’re so concerned about and criticizing my travel.

  6. The new Delta Sky Club at SLC is amazing! I’ve been there twice during the pandemic. Are you planning on doing a review after this trip?

    One cool thing about the Sky Clubs during the pandemic is that all the food is packaged to make it easy to stock up before a flight. Leave room in your carry-on or bring an extra bag. If you visit the LAX Sky Club and there is line to get a table, just tell the agent that you want to grab some food or use the restroom and then you can skip the line of people waiting for a table to open up.

    I flew twice this year, and at SFO and LAX they still won’t let you get close to the food. An agent will hand you what you want. However, I could grab my own food at the Sky Clubs at SLC, JFK, ATL, and MSP. In March I flew from SFO to LAX to JFK to SJU, and then SJU to ATL to SLC to SFO, so I was able to visit a lot of Sky Clubs during that trip.

  7. GBSanDiego Reply

    Way to go Chris. I have not travelled in more than a year now after cancelling my amazing trip to Europe last summer. Although, I did reserve a cabin at Yosemite Lodge for the last week of June (can’t wait to go!).

    Keep up the great work and I am all for those sexy ladies in the sky that you occasionally show!

  8. Welcome back. The only differences are masks and incessant reminders that you’ll be arrested if you fail to wear it. Quite frankly, it’s stupid.
    Delta still blocking middle seats but they’ve started to return cabin service.
    Otherwise, you’ll notice very little change.
    Currently in SkyClub in the E terminal at ATL. Business as usual.

  9. Likely old news, but if you leave the secured area in SLC and then go back in: There are 2 Clear lanes on opposite sides of the other TSA lanes. One is for those with Pre-Check, the other is for those without. Of course my first time there, I chose the wrong one.

  10. Will be interested to hear your impressions of new SLC terminals. “A” terminal is extremely long–think Detroit
    on steroids–without the benefit of a tram or motorized carts. Currently, there is only one underground link between
    the “A” and “B” gates although more are planned for the future. Only 1 SkyClub, touted as being Delta’s largest, but
    located at the far end near Gate 25 making for some long travel distances from lower numbered gates. Heard a lot
    of complaints from Delta personnel about the design and had to agree.

  11. Hi Chris
    We just started flying last week and it was perfectly fine. with blocked seats. What are you doing about seating when they take away the middle seats in May? We have been upgraded to Delta comfort on all our future flights and we have two seats on our flights but that still leaves a possibility of someone being seated in the middle seats. I hate to monetize To First class seats… But we are thinking using miles to do that. What about you? Thanks

    • We’ll do the same thing as pre-pandemic, I guess. Take C+ seats (when traveling with our daughter) or try to snag bulkheads or exit rows on those rare, rare, rare trips when it’s just Mrs. Carley and me. If the cost to upgrade isn’t onerous, I’ll consider it. Other than that, we’ll play the upgrade lottery.

  12. I have only flown 4 times since March 1, 2020, twice in March, once in August and last week. All for business and all SLC-LAS one-way and then drove home. I choose not to fly for leisure during the last year but I felt safer flying then at work with all the employees. Like others have said, only big difference is the mask and smaller crowds. I was in first each time so no one next to me.

    Last week was my first time in my new home airport so I went 3 hours early just to take it all in. Not flying since August was the longest I had been grounded for 30 years. The SLC Sky Club is amazing. I was really impressed by all the space and by the quality of the food offerings with them all being prepacked. The team there is doing a great job.

    I won’t see you there today but I did send my daughter-law and 3 friends off from there this morning to MCO and Disney World on my miles and points that have been piling up! I put them in First and in a nice hotel.

    Looking forward to seeing you again in the airport or at events. Have a great trip!

  13. Cheers Chris! Hope u enjoy your mini FC trip. We traveled this weekend and after they took the drug overdose off the plane ( Narcan really works) wedid better but no Margaritas on board.

  14. Steve sulligan Reply

    Wow! I ve been traveling since last May. You missed the real excite of travel . I flew to Boston in Oct to see nobody in the Delta check in line no one in the security line . Flew to Chicago in January same thing maybe 20 people in OHare . Drove to NYC and saw no traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel , Times Square empty on a Friday in July . Rode Amtrak across country stopping in Glacier NP for 3 days. To see our country and it’s sites without many people was truly memorable. That was worth the travel right there Kinda hate to see people return it was great time being out there while everybody dug into their caves and hid . Would have gone to Europe had we could of

  15. Was in the LAX SkyClub yesterday. It is a nightmare. Ridiculously crowded. Many people abusing the mask policy about being able to not wear it when eating or drinking.

    At least on the plane they requested you dip your mask for a drink and bring it right back up. Which I do anyway.
    btw I had the Tip Top Margarita and it was really good! Could have used some fresh lime in it but they aren’t doing that yet. Also no hot food yet on Transcon.

  16. Brian P Fisher Reply

    I wanted to see if you noticed any inconsistency in the boarding process on either of your flights. I know you were in First Class, so it wouldn’t have affected you, and you would have had boarding with the first group after pre-boarding, but I wanted your perception.

    I have been on three flights today and every single boarding procedure was different. I will be on my 4th in a couple of hours, but I think, based on what I just read on Delta’s website, I know what the correct procedure is. I will try to listen to the announcements though, even though I will be in D1 on my redeye tonight.

    So, this morning when leaving my first airport at 5:40 am (I’ve got another grump about what time the ticket counter opened, but it worked out ok… LOL), the first group to board after pre-boarding and before they started at the back of the plane included First Class, Diamond, and Platinum Medallion (no mention of Comfort+).

    In ATL, boarding for SFO, The first group was First Class, Delta 360, and Diamond Medallion, then they started boarding from the back. I was in row 10 in the first row of C+ and just behind FC, and my group was LAST to board. I really didn’t care, except for sure enough, people put their bags in the row 10 overheads, and even though all sorts of seats are blocked and there should be plenty of room throughout the plane. I got my roll a board in there, but it was a little annoying.

    In SFO, boarding an ERJ 175 for SEA, the real exception occurred, but it makes sense given how empty the flight was. I got to the gate 4 minutes after boarding started and there was NO ONE in the gate area, and the agent said it was pretty much everyone board at will. I actually got an upgrade on that flight, too.

    Anyway, it looks like the ATL boarding process is the correct one given that is how it is stated on the website as the temporary change, but I do hope that changes on May 1 with the seat blocking policy.

    For the record, the Sky Clubs in both SFO and SEA were pretty dead when I was passing through. Not sure if SEA will pick up a bit closer to the departure of the red eye flights. It’s eerie seeing these lounges so empty.

  17. Wow! Hoping I can also start traveling again. Hope you enjoy your trip!

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