2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. Thousands of businesses have been decimated and many industries have been flipped upside down. As most are very aware, the travel and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest by all of this. But now that we are 9 months into the pandemic, there has been a lot of pent up demand to get back into the skies. But what is the experience of flying like if you wanted to get back into the air? Well there are some key things to note so you’re not caught off guard.
AIRPORT ARRIVAL TIME:
Although airports are still not as busy as they once were, it is a wise idea to plan to arrive to the airport closer to 3 hours before your flight. The previous recommended time was 2 hours but since extra protocols have now taken into effect, this could add some major time to the process. I’ve personally experienced long delays at the airport since the addition of the temperature screening area.
Giving yourself some extra time to arrive at the airport does wonders for your stress levels. Arriving to the airport early is just a good practice in general to get into. Maybe you'll need the extra time to sort out your overweight luggage. Or maybe you'll need the time to perform a balancing act between you and your partner's overweight bags.
AIRPORT STORES, RESTAURANTS AND LOUNGES:
Many businesses simply can’t afford to stay open if the demand is not high enough. It’s not uncommon to stroll through the airport only to find out only a few stores are open. Regardless of the time of day/week, airports can have an eerie and empty feeling. In terms of physical distancing, this is great but don’t expect to be living it up in lounges before your flight. You have just have to get comfortable sitting by the gate like everyone else (with their masks on).
GATE SEATING AND WATER FOUNTAINS:
Airports have posted many variations of “do not sit here” signs on seats at the gate. This is to ensure physical distancing is adhered to. Also, many of the airports have turned off the water supply to the fountains to help curb the spread of COVID-19. This means you’ll have to get used to paying for more bottled water. To avoid standing up, it is advised that you arrive to your gate early so that you can claim a seat. There is no telling whether or not the airline would have sold out all of its seats. If this is true, then you'll definitely have a shortage of gate seating if every other one is off limits. Besides, you might get lucky and find a seat with an outlet all to yourself!
AIR PLANE SEATING:
Many major airlines have done a great job with physically distancing their passengers. If you’ve booked for yourself and another person, then chances are that you’ll have a 3-seater section to yourselves. Or if you’re a solo traveler, then they’ll ensure that there is no one in the middle seat.
This was not the case for my budget airline experience. The plane was rammed to capacity. Although everyone had their masks on, it was a less comfortable feeling knowing that everyone was so close together. If you do find yourself in a situation where you're sitting 3 to a row, then look around for some empty seats. Once the cabin door is shut, passengers are allowed to move to another empty eat within the same class. In today's climate, it only makes sense to give yourself some extra room while traveling in a confined space.
IN-AIR FOOD SERVICE:
If you’re flying domestic, then just about the only service you expect is the flight attendant showing you where your seat is. Food services have shut down while some airlines still offer light refreshments (water, tea, coffee). If you’re flying on a budget airline, then you may not even get served water. As crazy as that sounds, the only way to get water is by requesting it. The only true way to get served on a flight is by serving yourself (if at all possible). You’ll have to bring your own meal from home or spend more than you anticipated to buy food at the airport. You are allowed to bring in solids for food. Where it gets difficult is when you try to bring in liquids. The limit for liquids is 100mL per container. This would apply to things like soup and sauces as well. As it relates to food, taking your mask off is only permissible during the act of
eating. But even this is expected to be brief. If you're a slow eater or one that likes to savor the taste of foods, you'll now have to learn to be quick.
Traveling in today's climate is definitely a change from what everyone is used to. But at least the option of travel by air is still a possibility. We should be comforted by the fact that measures are in place to help keep us safe and limit the spread.