I flew to Florida last month and didn’t see a single smile at the Dane County Regional Airport or on the flight from Madison. It was wonderful.

Every employee and traveler wore a mask. Later, at the Charlotte and Miami airports, I saw many faces and several very well-protected chins and necks. Suddenly my own mask did not feel like adequate protection and being in the airport was more stressful than sitting on a plane.

Some airlines have taken steps to improve safety. They’ve added boarding groups with fewer people in each. All passengers and crew must wear a mask throughout the entire flight, except when eating or drinking; all food and beverage service is suspended. That was comforting since it meant there wouldn’t be an entire plane filled with mask-free passengers simultaneously snacking on free pretzels and sodas.

Along with the usual departure and landing instructions and checks for seatbelts, seatbacks, tray tables and carry-on items, passengers were also checked for wearing masks properly. Only one passenger had to be reminded to wear his mask in flight; his second reminder included the warning he would not be able to fly on the airline in the future if he had to be asked again.

After the plane landed, taxied to the gate and the seat belt sign was turned off, I expected the usual swarm of people to immediately pop up out of their seats and stand in the aisle. Instead, the flight attendant announced a new deplaning policy. Passengers must wait in their seats and leave row by row.

Beyond the obvious benefit of preventing people from hovering over their fellow passengers while standing in the aisle to get off the plane, it was also more efficient, and the process seemed calmer. The simple act of a flight attendant facing the cockpit and placing her hands at the headrests of each deplaning row as she walked backward achieved compliance.

I sure hope this process improvement outlasts COVID-19.

Colleen Chase

Fitchburg