Travel Stories: Here’s what flying from Denver to Anchorage is like right now

Flying over Anchorage

As our travel stories continue to show us, the post-pandemic travel experience is different. This week we’re switching it up with a US domestic travel story from our Lifetime user, Dave, who shared with us what his experience was like flying from Denver to Anchorage.

Tell us about your overall departure experience?
While we’re based in Denver, Colorado we actually own another home in Anchorage, Alaska so often fly back and forth between both cities. I’ve taken two trips to Alaska since the pandemic and both of those were different experiences.

United ticketing in Denver

For our trip in June, the Denver airport was like a ghost town, so TSA was a breeze. 90% of shops were closed and finding food or getting drinks beforehand was not really an option. There are two United Club lounges in Denver but only one was open so we went there. They were offering packaged foods and snacks along with drinks. On the way back, the Alaska Airlines lounge in Anchorage was closed, but was partially open for packaged food and no drinks in August.

Food experience at the Alaska Lounge in Anchorage — packaged items only.

We flew United and knew that middle seats would be blocked but lucked out even more and got upgraded to first class! During this particular trip, another passenger (who was wearing a painting respirator btw) was quite upset that seats in first class were 100% filled — it got to the point where flight attendants had to grab the gate agents to find a solution. After heckling with the crew for a while, he ended up taking a seat in economy!

My plane from DEN-ANC in June

How was the in-flight experience?
In June middle seats were being blocked and it wasn’t very full. Everyone, including the flight crew, was wearing masks. There wasn’t any hot meal service, just snack boxes and some drinks — basically everything needs to be packaged. One interesting thing was that seats in First Class were blocked for the flight crew to keep them separated.

During our recent trip, everyone was wearing masks, the flight was pretty full but middle seats were not being blocked. The crew actually announced that they had oversold First Class — I’ve never experienced that! I had originally bought an economy seat with miles and was offered an upgrade so wanted to make sure I didn’t lose my seat. When I inquired, they offered a $2,000 voucher for me to go back to economy — goes without saying I took it. That’s another trip to Alaska for me.

What was the arrival experience like?
In June the health mandates were changing quite often so we weren’t able to get a test beforehand. Actually the day we arrived, the Airport was setting up COVID testing with a few signs here and there. So we found a clinic, got a test taken and the negative results came in a few days.

Arrival in Anchorage. The airport was empty!

During the recent trip, it was different. The Anchorage airport had a dedicated area setup and guided you to the testing area. There were a dozen screeners there, head to toe in tyvek suits, masks and plexiglass barriers. They either check your test results if you have them or run a test right there for you. Another change they made is that only residents of the state can get a test on arrival, so if you’re a tourist you need to take a test beforehand.

Finally, would you recommend people to travel at this time?
Honestly, it’s a judgement call for every individual. If you have live-in parents or are immunocompromised then definitely don’t travel. If you’re young, healthy and can take reasonable precautions then why not? You just also need to understand the rules, regulations and be respectful of where you’re going. For me, I had to cancel several trips earlier this year so of course can’t wait to get back to vacations, once it’s safe to do so (and for countries to start allowing Americans!).

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