Who would have thought that airline travel would someday change and be filled with lots of protocols and reformations? Well, COVID-19 had us in the first half. Lots of public services and organizations have been affected and have deviated from their usual routine, airports not being an exception, all thanks to COVID-19. I was flabbergasted when I walked into two different airports and saw virtually the same protocols and routines in place. Over the last month, I have travelled across three countries and it doesn’t matter if it is West Africa, the Middle East or Asia. To keep you informed on what to expect as a traveller when you walk into an airport during this pandemic and to satisfy the curiosity of the #InsaneArmy, I’ll outline the changes you’ll most likely see at the airport pre-board, on-board, and in-flight.
1) At The Airport (pre-board)
a) The Reduction In Use Of Four-engine Airplanes: The pandemic has led to a decline in demand for airline travels which has forced many airports to ditch the big planes for the smaller ones. This means no more first-class as the smaller aircraft don’t have provision for such luxury. So, it’d be wise to shake off your “first-class” vibe if you have plans to travel in this period.
b) Mandatory Use Of PPEs: You’ll come across lots of people with nose masks, gloves, and face shields. Wait a minute, you wouldn’t if you don’t have yours on. It is compulsory to wear your nose masks, gloves, and face shields, without which you wouldn’t be allowed into the airport terminals.
c) Contactless Scanning of Credentials and Boarding Passes: Instead of handing your papers to a TSA officer, you’ll be allowed to electronically scan them yourself, this is to reduce as much contact as possible and keep the virus at bay.
d) Thermal temperature monitors, Electrostatic foggers, Sanitizer dispensers: There are temperature monitors in place at many airports to monitor the temperature of individuals which will alert the authorities if you have an abnormally high temperature, electrostatic foggers constantly disinfecting surfaces and the environment at the airports, and numerous sanitizer dispensers so that you can keep disinfecting your hand as-you-go.
a) Air Filters: There are on-board air filters that have a high degree of effectiveness in filtering pathogens from the air, making the air safer for breathing.
b) Frequent and Intense Cleaning of the Cabin: The cabin will be constantly cleaned by airline workers and mini fogging machines to make the travel “virus less” as possible.
c) Mandatory Use of Nose Masks and Implementation of Physical Distancing: Even on-board, the use of masks is mandatory and physical distancing is encouraged. A row of seats is kept in between opposite passengers and one or two seats are left vacant between adjacent passengers. You’ll notice that the flight attendants also don their full PPEs.
d) Handing out of Hygiene Kits: Hygiene kits containing gloves, sanitizers, and masks are handed out to every passenger and passengers are required to change their mask every 4 hours if their flight is a long one.
a) Meal Service: Meal services have changed; no more casual serving of meals to passengers. They have pre-packaged simple meals and snacks ready for dispatch to each passenger in a special bag which the passenger can dispose of at any time. Forget about your regular in-flight coffee or tea, most airlines would just give you a bottle of water. However, some airlines would permit you to bring your own food on-board.
b) No showers: Having your shower on board is no more an option as airports are trying their best to prevent any unnecessary activity that has the potential to spread the virus.
c) No strolling: Strolling around when the craft is in-flight to meet-and-greet or whatsoever is not allowed to avoid congregation. This is a means to enforce physical distancing measures. So, plant your bum on your seat.
There you have it, folks. Covid-19 has taken the fun out of lots of things. Did I mention canceled flights? Well, some flights are canceled and money is returned if they do not have enough passengers. Sad stuff, I know. But that’s the reality of airline travels this period. Safe travels, for those of you traveling.