I consider myself an experienced traveller. With Canadian expatriate parents in the hotel and media industry living in Asia, I took my first flight when I was 6 months old and not a year has gone by in my 30 years when I have not flown through the skies at least once. I have also travelled and lived in countries reeling from tragedies such as the terrorist attack in Mumbai back in November 2008 and the repeated bombings in Bali during my younger years.
In early 2020, I travelled to Hong Kong, India, the UK and then Switzerland where my travel paused in March as travel bans resulted in massive flight cancellations and airport closures worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic is something we all have in common and it has disrupted our world and global economies, and our lives are now filled with uncertainties as cases rise and fall, then surge again in different countries.
I finally returned to Toronto via Lisbon on July 3rd. I am used to the sights and sounds of a bustling, loud and chaotic international airports during summer months. While none of the airports on my journey have been ghost towns and some people are indeed still travelling, it was oddly quiet considering the season. There was little to no line-ups in Check-In counters, Security and Immigration. The only line-up was the temperature check line which I had to go through to leave Lisbon airport for one night. Most airport stores except for Duty Free in Geneva and Lisbon were closed and so were 90% of eateries in the food court in Lisbon Airport.
It is clear that airlines are struggling right now and it’s going to be a rough year for the travel industry. Many flights have been cut and my flight to Toronto was half full. I found some of these travel tips helpful:
12 Travel Tips To Help Travellers Stay Safer When Flying During COVID-19:
Request an aisle seat
Well, I didn’t ask for it but I had a whole row to myself, which was pretty amazing for economy during summer season and it almost made up for having to wear those infernal masks.
Wear a mask throughout the entire flight to help protect yourself from any airborne particles.
It was mandatory to wear the immensely uncomfortable masks in the airports and during the flight which I loathe even though I understood why the rules are in place. Wearing masks for over 8 hours with short breaks for food is horrible, especially with glasses since I had to spend half my day in a blind fog. I gained even more respect for the medical team in the front line who have to wear full PPE gear.
Practice social distancing as much as possible, both at the airport and on the flight.
The airport definitely tried to make sure people kept their distance and they succeeded since the airport was quite empty.
Keep purses and other small carry on bags closed and zipped up as much as possible, as this can be a source of exposure.
I always do this, last thing you want in a plane is your stuff going all over the place due to turbulence.
Use disinfecting wipes to sanitise your seat, seat belt, windows, and tray tables before being seated.
I expect the airlines to sanitise the entire plane before a flight. We were not provided any disinfecting wipes by the airlines, though I did bring some myself.
Use a wipe or paper towel to open and close high traffic, high touch areas like the overhead compartment, tray tables, restroom doors, etc.
I am terrible at remembering to do stuff like this and I am still working on developing the habit. Also, few travellers travel with that much supply and disposal of contaminated wipes and paper towel is another problem.
Use hand sanitiser throughout the flight after touching any surfaces, including the overhead bin, tray table, arm rests, etc.
This is impossible! Airlines do not provide them onboard and no one travels with that much sanitizer and there is a 100ml limit on the size of items allowed onboard a flight. If travellers needed to wipe down everything every time we touched it, we would be doing nothing else. We are touching surfaces all the time! Sanitizers are also flammable!
Try to avoid using the bathroom on the plane, but if you are on a longer flight and that isn’t possible, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
There’s no way anyone can fly for over 8 hours long haul and not go to the bathroom. I did wash my hands though.
Stay hydrated! This will allow your mucous membranes to function more efficiently. After your flight, wash your hands right away and blow your nose. You can also use a saline spray to maintain a moist protective barrier.
I always travel with a water bottle since I get thirsty on flights. I did wash my hands again as soon as I got off the flight.
Take a protective vitamin with immune boost – doses of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals have shown definite improvement in immune response.
I had a multivitamin the day I left Switzerland and I should have brought the bottle with me, …whoops!
Bring your own freshly laundered or purchased travel pillow and blanket.
I did not … and I didn’t see anyone bring their own either. I didn’t use the ones on the airline either since I don’t sleep on most flights and this one was a mostly a day flight.
Wash your face and hands with soap for a minimum of twenty seconds after the flight.
I did soon after getting off my flight, but I didn’t see many others doing the same.
Toronto Airport was also quiet and I was required to fill out forms with instructions about 14 days of self-isolation and the penalties involved. In all honesty, I was truly sad to witness and experience travel this way. I’ve seen destinations suffer from tragic circumstances before, but this isn’t just a destination, this is happening everywhere which is heart breaking. We are also, once again, having to regress and use so much single-use plastics and disposables.
Airlines claim their airplanes are safe from virus contamination, but they are not. If one is truly concerned or vulnerable, it is best to avoid airplane travel for now.
As I write this blog, I am in my 5th day of self-isolation. I hope all of my fellow travellers stayed well after their flight and during these difficult times. A part of me looks forward to the days when I can once again complain about the guy next to me who was hogging the armrest and how the flight is pack full like a sardine can with no empty seat in sight.