After months of being almost completely grounded, planes have slowly started to take off again - but flying right now is controversial, to say the least.
The best option is of course not to fly, and it is of course possible to go abroad without necessarily having to fly. But for some people flying is the only or by far easiest option, even during a pandemic.
Some might need to get on a plane for work or want/need to finally visit family members they were only able to see virtually for months. I myself recently got on a plane in order to get back to university, and am now going to share what has changed in terms of appropriate behaviour at the airport and on the plane itself.
The basics of navigating the airport have not really changed but, like anywhere else, some new measures and rules had to be introduced to make it as safe as possible in the time of Covid-19.
The first one hardly comes as a surprise, but DO wear your mask at all times (unless exempt). The airport building itself as well as the plane are indoor spaces where it is essential to wear a mask, as social distancing cannot be guaranteed at all times. The face covering has to be worn from the moment you step into the airport until you leave the airport at your destination.
Although it is allowed to take it off to drink and eat, both at the airport and on the plane, I wouldn’t make these breaks too long, out of consideration for the other travellers and for your own sake. You might not have had to wear a mask for a prolonged amount of time, but unfortunately there is no way around it in this situation and while it is not the most comfortable thing to do.. it is bearable, and you are probably already kind of used to them by now. Please make also sure that you not only cover your mouth but also your nose.
DON’T be late. You should never be late at the airport but what took long before — baggage drop-off, security check etc. — is taking even longer now. The queues are generally longer now because of social distancing, and while there are not more people than before it is just unpleasant to be stuck in the queue for too long. Additionally, some things might also take longer because of additional cleaning measures.
DO take advantage of the free hand sanitisers that are scattered across the airport. Frequent hand-washing/sanitising still applies while you’re travelling. I would however not purely rely on the provided sanitising stations, but also carry my own gel just to be on the safe side — don’t forget to put it in a plastic bag and to take it out for the security check.
DON’T be offended when the airport staff points something out you’re doing wrong. It is completely normal that you’re not yet familiar with every new measure and therefore you might make mistakes. However, it is not their fault that the restrictions are in place and they are just doing their job making sure that everyone stays safe, so please be nice.
DO bring spare masks. Masks should be changed approximately every 4 hours or when they are humid, and because travelling by plane often is a longer affair you should come prepared. Dispose of your used mask in a bin while still at the airport or take it with you when you leave the plane.
DON’T leave it lying around on the plane when you leave, so the staff doesn’t have to touch your, possibly contaminated, mask. If you are worried about flying you can get an FFP2 mask from a pharmacy and wear that for more protection, but be aware that they are a lot more expensive and can also only be worn once.
DON’T ignore the signs/one-way systems that have been put in place. The airports want to make your journey as safe as possible and cooperating with what they have put in place makes their and your life easier. Everything was very clear at the airports I was at.
DO be aware that there will be fewer seats available in the terminal, every other seat has to be left empty in order to guarantee social distancing. Stickers might indicate where you can and can’t sit. If it is too busy you might have to stand or give your seat up for someone who needs it more.
© Cargolux Airlines International S.A.
DON’T bring too much hand luggage. Many airlines now no longer allow you to bring trolleys on the plane, to reduce the risk of contamination. You will either have to check them in or leave them outside the plane for the staff to put them in the baggage compartment.
DO be aware that a stranger might be sitting next to you, as the 2m rule does not apply in planes. But the fact that everyone is wearing masks and the plane’s filtration system lowers the risk of you catching anything from them considerably. This might happen even if the plane is not full, especially if it is a small plane as the weight needs to be balanced out. However, if it is a bigger plane you might be able to switch seats if you ask politely.
DON’T get up as soon as the plane lands. Most airlines now require you to stay seated until the row in front of you is empty to avoid crowding. You now have to resist the urge to jump up as soon as possible to get your bags from the overhead compartments. I personally found that this is better and more efficient than the rush to be the first one out that often happened before.
DO be prepared to fill out a bunch of forms either on the plane or beforehand. Many countries and some airlines now require you to fill out health forms, so you can be contacted in case someone on your flight or you yourself tests positive for Covid-19. Bring a pen and be ready to write your name and phone number down a million times.
DON’T be surprised that you will still be served a drink and/or snack, however the choice is now limited and they only give you closed bottles unless you ask for coffee. Even though it is allowed to eat on the plane I think that it is possible to resist the urge to eat on a short flight and just keep your mask on.
DO respect the rules in the airport shops, they might be tax free but definitely not Covid free. The same rules as in ordinary shops apply here so it is nothing new really, but I still had to witness some shocking behaviour.
Finally, DO make yourself familiar with the rules and regulations at your destination. This might not directly concern the journey itself but I think it is closely linked to travelling as a whole.