I hope you will find this post helpful as pandemic travel insight. Let’s forget for a moment all practical suggestions that one could share. The key question is: is it safe or brave to travel by plane during pandemic? How did the actual travel and safety measures change in the last months? Is it risky & crazy or maybe simply reasonable & necessary?
Two months ago I shared two articles: Practical Pandemic Tips: Get Ready and Fly Internationally and Flying with Babies during Pandemic: Valuable Tips. This time, following my further travel experience, I want to share some of my next observations as travel is my real passion.
May your journey be free from stress and bring your home safely.
HELPFUL PANDEMIC TRAVEL INSIGHT – WHO
First, let’s look at the recent view of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the safety of air travels. On 22nd October 2020 the WHO said that the risk of COVID-19 spreading on flights appears “very low” but cannot be ruled out.
“In-flight transmission is possible but the risk appears to be very low, given the volume of travelers and the small number of case reports. The fact that transmission is not widely documented in the published literature does not, however, mean it does not happen,” the WHO said in a statement to Reuters.
Following the details shared by Reuters, different airlines interpret the information differently, influencing their decisions on the flights availability and safety measures. The good side of WHO’s view is: risk is not high but of course it doesn’t stop one from taking extra care of self and families when traveling is needed.
My travels during pandemic are related to our personal situation and necessity to move between two houses. Yes, two different corners of the world. I haven’t traveled for a vacation and I am not in favor of it, at least based on the current situation, both globally and locally.
So far during pandemic I took 4 flights, always between Poland and India. Yes, I am not an expert like James Asquith who have done in the meantime already 60 flights! I want to share my personal observation and few highlights for all who might be considering air travel in the upcoming weeks and months. With so many planes boarded in my life, it is an interesting perspective: to compare it to the current situation, focusing on the safety aspect.
I know it is very personal decision & situation: my 4 flights during pandemic with Our Little One. Was it safe or brave? Let’s review.
HELPFUL PANDEMIC TRAVEL INSIGHT
Safety first so you last.
NEED VS WANT
In my opinion, this is a key item when it comes to the safety (or bravery!). Are your travel plans and consideration a necessity or maybe just a want? During pandemic ‘wants’ can have direct or indirect impact, not only on us, but especially on others. So my recommendation is: to keep air travel more safe for all who really need to travel, skip it if not required. Holidays can wait. Hold on if you can. There will be many people who due to personal or work situation will need to commute between countries.
In case of India, currently people who can enter the country are: Indian nationals (including Overseas Citizens of India), employment visa and student visa holders, family members living in India, diplomats and seamen. Of course, the situation is dynamic and this information can change any time so check specific criteria for your country of interest first.
Currently, many countries have multiple entry restrictions. Usually it works for both locations: departure and arrival ones, plus of course return journey, if applicable. In my eyes, it helps to all who can and need to travel. In many cases tourists still can’t board the plane to travel internationally. So if you can and need to travel, it sets the journey more safe for you: planes are not full, you can easily have an extra space of two seats just for you.
During 4 of our flights the occupancy level was between 40-75%. During 2 out of 4 flights we (me and Our Little One, still an infant) had 3 seats for us. On the other two flights we had 2 seats empty. Both ways I was considering to get upgraded to business class, however, as planes are still very empty, it made more sense for us to use economy class.
SAFETY MEASURES’ CHANGES
Travel environment, just like the overall life, became dynamic off late. This refers also to the constant changes of safety measures. What you might need to follow on the flight out might be different from your return journey, even if it is a matter of few days only. It is really crucial to check respective airline and country guidelines before each journey. Safety measures might also be different for specific regions or cities within one country. So check it well. Having a copy (soft or hard) of latest guidelines with you might help too, mainly to fly without any issues.
In our case there were two changes before returning two India. One, not fully clear: negative test result for passengers flying to Karnataka. One official document was saying it is needed, another one that it is not. My Better Half sent me a copy, just in case, as we got questioned at the airport in Poland before departure. Second item, based on Lufthansa direction, was a good change for us: hand luggage was ‘back to normal’. During flight out we were allowed only 1 piece of luggage, nothing else. Saturday evening, as I struggled to pack again – surprise, surprise… haha – I checked Lufthansa website, and noticed that two pieces of luggage are allowed again with a note to minimize if possible.
Onboard safety is an interesting item. In my eyes it splits into two categories: real safety measures and cost cutting options. Many flights will still give an option of empty middle seat, unless check-in is done using same the ticket. Airlines do not allow to queue to the bathrooms or stand in the alleys during flight. That’s a good change. Interestingly some direction might be coming not only from the airlines but also from specific countries. For example: India imposes specific process (focused on social distancing) during disembarking. On the other hand, planes and especially seating places, although cleaned, might not be the cleanest. Yes, it is a bit sad. So before you start enjoying your journey, double clean the space around you with disinfectants and wet wipes. You never know who was sitting there on the previous flight.
If you need to fly, follow the safety guidelines and if you feel so – add your own twists to it to feel comfortable and safe. There are people who travel both in face mask and face shield. I have seen people wearing two face masks too. If someone doesn’t cover the nose, just let the person know or ask air hostess for assistance. It is you who needs to feel safe during the flight and no one will take better care of yourself than you yourself.
I found safety at the airport a bit more challenging. Maybe as I didn’t travel alone and Our Little One is super active. In more remote areas of the airport people like to remove their face masks. I know it might be challenging to be in the face mask all the time. For me, the long flights were 10 hours each, so yes it wasn’t easy. Additionally social distancing, especially in the boarding area might be challenging. Many people just want to jump over in the queue, try to overcome the priorities of boarding etc., staying just next to each other. Find some space at the airport that will give you good social distancing and do not rush with the boarding. You will make it!
Importantly, most of the airports imply new safety measures for lounges: many of them might be closed, some are providing only ‘take away’ service and some are functional – however selected lounges only. So do not plan that you will relax in the corner of the airport lounge, I planned to do the same and ended up with take away coffee only.
is it really about the flight?
This is my observation and thought process only: is it really about the flight? In my eyes, being on the flight is more like going to the grocery store which is needed and exposes you to other people (yes, the time duration is different and entry cost too!): one needs to take extra care. Nowadays, no matter where you venture, one needs to be careful and ensure basic safety measures. For me, the ‘safe or brave’ part starts at the destination place. If one is still going to maintain social distancing, wear face mask, avoid gatherings, meeting people or going out. Staying at own home or location limits risks too. Staying in the hotels, restaurants is a bit like that flight seat: you never know who was there just before…
So I would say: flying is safe, the risk is limited. It is what happens later, at the destination place, that might be brave. Just remember, if you happen to travel: take care, as in most of the cases there is still a return flight waiting for you. #staysafe & #safeflight!
HELPFUL PANDEMIC TRAVEL INSIGHT – 5 top airlines
Following my story and recommendations, it is important to check – before considering, booking and flying, the latest information provided by the airline regarding Covid situation impact on the flight and its safety measures. I am sharing below 5 top airlines, based on 2019 data, according to the consumer-aviation website Skytrax. Under each airline you can find the link to their pages related to Covid-19 information updates. The airline you are looking for isn’t on the list? Don’t worry. Just type in google search your airline name and ‘coronavirus’ – it will direct you to the right link. Stay safe, safe flight!
ANA All Nippon Airways
Cathay Pacific Airways
What is your view, is flying now safe or brave? Given a chance, would travel yourself now?
Moments that matter, no matter the airline.