When I had boarded my flight on 27th February 2020, to be with my husband in Vijayawada, who knew we would not be able to take a return flight till 12th November 2020. It gives me goosebumps to even think of how things have panned out in these past eight months. Everything has gone haywire, daily schedule has changed, the scare of the virus has surpassed all emotions, life has changed and much more. I terribly miss the normalcy we once had. This was also the longest that I have lived at one place in the last five years and it was biggest one time stretch that I have ever survived without seeing my parents, 8.5 months to be precise. When travel resumed, we dint gave in to the rush immediately because husband was engaged in work in Vijayawada (yes, no work for home for him) and we dint feel safe taking chances either. During all this while, one of my beloved places (the airport) seemed distant far. These are really strange times!
The Joy of Traveling is Lost!
And finally, when I did gather courage to take that first flight during pandemic, the traveler’s heart inside me broke into million pieces. Nothing seemed safe yet and the joy of travel was completely lost. Now, that I have completed a round trip, I am in a position to talk about taking flights in the current situation. I would still advise holidays and leisure travel may be avoided for a while. With the crowd being back at the airport, I felt carelessness had creeped in already. Here are some of my thoughts, snippets and takeaways from the entire experience.
Crowd cannot be avoided. We have to be extra careful
- As soon as I got down from Uber, I popped open my hand sanitizer, applied some and made my way to the airport entrance. The luggage was sanitized and my temperature was checked even before I knew. The precautionary measures seemed harmless and I felt it would be nice if some of these practices continued in future too. But I couldn’t help and wonder, ‘When would the risk-free days of travel return? Next, I was met with a glass partition that separated me and the security guard who looked more like an alien in the PPE kit. Just like the good old times, he checked for the boarding pass, asked for my id and sent me in.
- Once inside, it wasn’t hard to notice that there were fewer people and social distancing did seem to be working well for some. Everyone was masked or were trying their best to keep it from slipping off their nose. Airports are usually busy but there was no mad rush in there. I missed the crowd of the times when there was no virus.
- After we dropped our luggage and collected the boarding pass, we were handed over the packet as per our seat. The pack had disposable mask, face-shield and pouches of sanitizer. For being on the middle seat, my husband was handed over an extra packet of white clothing to be worn throughout the flight.
- The security check seemed slower and less busy. Every box was being sanitised and there was no madness of any kinds. I am sure it is a daunting task to clean every box. I wondered what was the extent that risk that these people were exposed to while working at such places where hundreds of people were walking through them all day.
- After the security check, we sanitized our hands again and looked for a place to sit. Some of the chairs were marked with a cross. Social distancing definitely seemed the hardest part in the next phase. We all had to take a bus and be seated in a plane packed with people. How long could one abide to the 2 arms distance rule?
- Once inside the plane, how much one could avoid touching the seat or the seat belt or being cramped with other people? Keep wipes to do the hygiene check and in case you have touched it, use the hand sanitizer generously. Also, keeping minimal things on the outside is the safest bet in hand. There is not much except to adopt these little habits till we get used to it. Avoid and maintain distance from people who continue to block the path, take hours in putting their bags in overhead cabins and are still far away from the whole concept of social distancing.
- The first thing that caught my attention was the missing space for inflight magazine. There was none. The flight attendants looked different in their PPE kits and the whole fun of travel seemed to be lost in the lurking fear of catching the invisible virus. But anyways, what is to be done is to be done. But I would like to say that most of the passengers wore masks and face shields throughout the journey.
- The meal was served but it was mostly unhealthy as it was cold and packed food. I always liked the wholesome cooked food in comparison to the quick fix bakery stuff. But I am glad some things were falling in place. And in place of no food and water, there was at least something to do. Don’t forget to wear the masks again and keep using sanitizers at all point of time.
- But mostly, the journey seemed tedious. Being watchful about a lot of things seemed like a burden. During the entire time inside the flight with the mask and the face shield on ( two and half hours of flight), I couldn’t help missing the good old days. I felt stifled and disappointed in almost everything that had changed. Flights used to be fun with eating drinking, inflight entertainment, talking with strangers and being excited about reaching a new place. It was all gone.
- At the airport, once we reached, we sanitized our hands once again after collecting the luggage. On the way to the taxi stand, we dropped the used face shields in the allocated yellow boxes. I was definitely happy and delighted to be back to my home city. The trip was not yet over. We had be extra careful and watchful for 14 days to see if there were symptoms of any kinds. And we had to avoid meeting many people or passing on any risk to them. Who would have thought that travel would become so cumbersome one day?
- After 25 days, I was flying during pandemic, once again. We had to be back to Vijayawada. The Delhi airport seemed more crowded. It felt good to see people showing confidence in travelling but on the other side, I did not like the complacent attitude. There were more leisure travellers, honeymooners and families to be seen. Business trip was no more the flavor of the season. The masks had shifted to the nose. Rest of the process remained same but this time we were handed over our masks and face shields at the boarding gate. Ensure that you are wearing your mask all the time.
- While de boarding, the usual human nature was back in place. Despite the requests to keep seating, people stood up, rushed to step out of the plane, forgot about social distancing and pushed each other. Once I reached Vijayawada, I just felt relieved that the trip was over.
- And last but not the least, I was randomly picked on my way out of the airport exit gate to take a RT-PCR test. This would be a first time for me. First, I freaked out a little but then I felt it was for the good. They did not say when would I get the result. Its been more than 24 hours and I haven’t heard from them. I am just keeping my fingers crossed and assuming that all is well. So that completes my experience of travelling during pandemic.
Masks, Sanitizers and More!
Before I start, masks and sanitizers are a must. You may keep tissues, gloves, etc. Keep away from queues or join them at the last when only few people remain. In the transfer bus, try to keep at one side. Try and use the washroom before boarding the flight and don’t touch face and eyes. And once you are home after taking the flight, kindly ensure that the clothes used during the journey are washed. Its difficult to claim what will reduce the risk but we got to keep doing the best.