Many of those who continue to fly do so out of necessity, Ms. Metz and Ms. Choma said. One man on a flight with Ms. Choma was traveling home to San Francisco from a visit in Chicago with his father, who was dying of cancer, she said. On another flight, a woman was leaving an abusive husband. Ms. Metz recently transported nearly 75 passengers, many of whom had been stuck on a quarantined cruise ship.
For flight crews, the pandemic has altered life in other ways. With airports and their destinations often virtually shut down, planning trips is more difficult.
One recent Thursday morning, Ms. Choma spent 45 minutes in bed researching the weather and news at her destination, knowing she probably would have a long walk to find dinner. The bag that she normally packs with fresh food and snacks now holds longer-lasting items like Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle Soup, packets of tuna, and blueberry and chocolate coconut Rxbars.
“It’s stuff that if I got stuck somewhere, if something really went bad and they shut down everything, that I’d be OK,” she said.
There are some small comforts in this new reality. On a recent trip to Southern California, Ms. Metz checked into a hotel she often stays at and was assigned a prized room with a view of the San Diego Bay. For Ms. Choma, an hourlong commute now takes 15 minutes, in part because she’s allowed to park closer to the airport instead of in a lot that’s a shuttle ride away.
On that recent Thursday, Ms. Choma left the house that she shares with roommates, got in her car and pulled into a spot near Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport. There, she put on her lipstick and breezed past the security checkpoint. The quiet of the airport amplified the click of her heels and the squeak of the wheels on her bag, sounds that would normally be drowned out by the crowds.
“It’s like you’re just waiting for the hammer to drop or waiting for the rug to get pulled from under you,” she said. “How far is this going to go? Where is this going to go? What are the airlines going to look like after this?”