Need to fly in the near future? Feel better prepared by reading these flight experiences and safety tips from nine world travelers.
The idea of flying in 2020 is enough to make anyone feel nervous. There are so many risks to consider with enclosed spaces, shared surfaces, and potential flight changes or cancellations. And that doesn’t take into account the safety requirements before and after your journey.
Even with destinations that have been deemed safe to travel, it could be smarter to stick to local adventures. However, there may come a time soon when you need to fly – whether it’s returning home, moving abroad, or an unavoidable business trip.
We understand that everyone’s levels of confidence regarding travel right now are entirely different. Some people don’t want to leave home at all but have to see family, whereas others might chalk it all up to another kind of flying experience.
To help you know what to expect or even decide whether you should take the risks – we’ve reached out to bloggers around the world for their tips and experiences of flying in 2020.
- What to expect before flying – researching flights and preparation
- What to expect at the airport and during the flight
- What to expect after the flight – quarantining and other precautions
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends staying home to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19. See more information about domestic travel in the US and international air travel or refer to your local government advisory.
Before flying (researching flights and preparation)
Research travel restrictions for each destination
Nick Winder, Illness To Ultra
My number one tip for flying during these unexpected times is research! Specifically looking into the travel restrictions of your destination/s AND your home base. If you search online for the state or country you’re traveling to and “Travel Order” (also try “destination name tourism” or “destination name travel restrictions”) you will normally find the local government advice. This advice can range from precaution while traveling to full-on restrictions of entering the area.
I noted at the start that you also have to be mindful of your home base too. As you will be traveling back to your home and may be subject to travel orders such as quarantining or receive a test before/upon entering. All this research requires a lot more planning than in normal times, but you don’t want to end up like us and have to change your travel plans because you can’t abide by your destination’s restrictions. We all have to do our part and keep each other as safe as possible!
Review safety protocols for the airline and airports
Chantell Collins, Budget Travel Babes
Most airlines now have dedicated sections on their website which provide an overview of their safety features. The Safe Travel Barometer can help make this easier by providing an overview of different airlines and airports while you are still in the early stages of planning. However, it’s still best to check directly with the airline and airport before booking.
Airlines are compared on the basis of disinfection frequency, thermal screening, health declaration form, and face masks (for crew and passengers). For airports, you can see compare based on contactless baggage drop, contactless check-in kiosks, COVID-19 testing facilities, as well as face mask regulations.
Check for recent flight cancellations
Chantell Collins, Budget Travel Babes
In March my boyfriend and I made the difficult decision to leave our new home in Ireland to return to my native country of Australia – all within a week of the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic. While making the multi-day journey thanks to nerve-racking flight cancellations (fortunately not for our flights), we almost ended up stranded in Singapore airport.
The reason being that our connecting flights were not through the same airline and therefore required that we go through immigration to collect our baggage before checking back in for our next flight. Singapore had already instated travel restrictions and quarantine requirements which meant that we simply couldn’t do that without having to quarantine for two weeks.
Instead, we paid over $1000 AUD to purchase last-minute flights on Qantas, as it was the sister airline of Jetstar who we arrived with. They made the transfer of our bags without us needing to leave the terminal and go through the immigration process.
After the first few months of the pandemic being announced, international airlines started operating more flights again. However, many are selling seats that end up getting canceled – leaving the traveler in a difficult situation. One reason is that airlines may schedule a bunch of flights but closer to the dates, realize that it was unrealistic. In those cases, the company will likely reduce the number of flights. So by waiting until they’ve been operating that route for a couple of weeks can provide a more accurate selection.
To reduce the risk of your ticket being canceled:
- Search for all possible flight options on Skyscanner – look for those that are the most direct. If they have a connection, make sure it’s still on the same airline and that you can enter the airport from your destination
- Track the flight on FlightAware to see how the flight has actually been operating in the past weeks and if there have been any cancellations
- Rely more on the airline’s “travel alert” page rather than the listing of flights they have scheduled
- If the airline is just about to restart certain routes again, it may be a good idea to wait a couple of weeks to see how it operates
- When booking, make sure you check the airline’s cancellation policy. It also pays to search for reviews and social media to see if there have been any refund complaints.
Buy travel insurance that covers COVID-19
Marco Sison, Nomadic FIRE
After spending the first six months of the pandemic in the Philippines, my girlfriend and I decided we needed a break from ex-pat life in SE Asia. The first challenge faced for flying during a pandemic was our current country wasn’t allowing people to leave. For six months, the Philippine government closed all airports and canceled all domestic and international flights. Outside of an occasional (and extremely expensive) government rescue flight, people in the Philippines could not leave, even if we wanted to.
The next challenge was finding a country that would accept both an Austrian (her) and a US citizen (me). At this point in the pandemic, most countries worldwide restricted access to anyone with a US passport. We chose Turkey. One, because it would accept US citizens. Two, the Turkish government offered visitors COVID health insurance. Both my girlfriend and I had our travel insurance policies invalidated due to COVID. If you are going to be traveling during a pandemic, make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage.
We were one of the first flights allowed to leave the country. The systems and procedures were not clear to anyone. The line from the airport door to the boarding gate took 5 hours. Everyone boarding the flight was required to wear a mask and a face shield or goggles. The airlines provided each
passenger complimentary surgical gloves and sanitizer. We used both to wipe down all the surfaces (tray, tv screen, remote control, headrest, seat belt, and armrest) before settling into our seats for the 20+ hour flight.
Print out your identification and/or documents
Helene Dsouza, Masala Herb
We flew out with one of the last flights from Goa to Vienna, Austria on the 21st of March. My Indian husband had a simple visa at that time (we were working on a residency card). Due to covid, the laws kept on changing during that week before we traveled. Nothing could have prepared us for all that! What helped us is a set of documents. That can be marriage documents, a negative PCR test, and any other document that can help you get through if you need to travel to a particular region.
We also tried to plan even though it was almost impossible to do that but it helped us to stay a bit grounded and to think clearly with a solution-oriented point of view. A total lockdown can happen anytime again, as it just did in Austria once again. It also makes sense to get a refundable flight and train tickets only, the ones where you can get a refund too if you cancel, just in case. We were not able to get a flight back to Asia in Jan 2021 with the same carrier because they canceled all flights to Austria.
So, be aware that some countries have not established so-called travel bubbles. Do your research online and call the embassies for info, they have to guide you and they will give you the right info. Also, register with your government’s online foreign service mission, so that they at least know where you are in an emergency. This has helped us when we couldn’t get any flights anymore because they send out emails and help their nationals to get connections back home or they will tell you to go to a trusted doctor.
Pack a face shield, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant
Paul Hudson, Playas y Plazas
Commercial air travel always involves some level of stress but during a pandemic, there are a lot of unknowns that can aggravate the experience. These are some observations so that you know what to expect and how to prepare for your own Covid era air travel.
First and foremost, don’t worry about what other people think about you. This is about your health and the health of your family. I know I look ridiculous in a mask and face shield. I haven’t had a haircut in eight months and it’s not possible to wear both a baseball cap and a face shield. During the boarding and deboarding process, you will come in close proximity to the entire plane. Why not take the extra precautions?
I was less concerned with recirculated air in the cabin than I was with surfaces that many people would be touching. Pack travel-sized (<100ml) hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant and use them regularly. It is hard to wash your hands well on a plane. I skipped the morning coffee before the flight in an effort to avoid the public bathrooms. If you must use the restroom, a little spray sanitizer on the doorknob will go a long way.
What to expect at the airport and during the flight
Take refillable water bottles and food on the flight
Stacey Wittig, Unstoppable Stacey
When you know what to expect if you’re flying soon, then you can make preparations before you leave home.
Your airline will tell you in a welcome email that masks must be worn during the duration of the flight. That’s probably not a surprise to today’s travelers. However, what airlines may fail to mention is that, on most flights, food and beverage service has been discontinued due to COVID-19. That means that savvy travelers will pack empty containers in their carry-ons to fill with water once they’ve gone through TSA screening. As in pre-COVID times, you can carry liquid in container sizes limited to 3.4 oz or 100 ml to pass through airport security.
Travelers may also want to prepare for their flights by packing food, or purchasing carry out at the airport. Although a face covering is required while flying, you may remove it to eat or drink. But no personal alcohol may be consumed.
Before I sit down, I wipe the tray table, armrest, seat-belt buckles, window shade handles, and air duct knobs. Here are more tips for staying safe while flying:
- Use the wipes that flight attendants hand out as you enter the plane to wipe down your seat
- Bring extra sanitizing wipes
- Refrain from using the plane’s toilet
- Be conscientious of other travelers and give them space in lines, aircraft aisles, and baggage carousels.
Although flight attendants may announce that you should stay in your seat until the row in front of you empties, only about half the passengers comply. As soon as one jumps up, then the whole herd is in motion. Reminds me of the videos of wildebeest herd migration on the Serengeti.
Pack reusable items (cutlery, plates, straws, etc.)
Sophie Marie, Australian Kitchen & Home
We were lucky enough to get home to Australia from the UK just a few days before the country was locked down to international arrivals. Coronavirus was in full swing and I was traveling alone with my six-month-old and two-year-old. So, I was pretty worried. I did all the usual things like carrying hand sanitizer, face masks. etc. However, one of my big concerns was eating and drinking during our eight-hour layover at Singapore airport.
I decided a simple way to ease my nerves would be to pack a few reusable items so we weren’t relying on anything touched by others. I made sure to pack reusable straws and little cutlery packs as well as a small plastic plate, bowl, and cup for my toddler. She was delighted to have all of her own things for the flight.
Although most things on the flight were packaged individually, I found that having the knowledge of exactly where those things had been meant I had one less thing to worry about.
After the flight – quarantining and other precautions
Use quarantine time as quality time
Nandita Sikka, Nandyz Soulshine
As we were moving, we knew we’d be stepping straight into a home without a proper kitchen set up. We didn’t need to go into institutional quarantine as we had a toddler with us. So, a compact plastic picnic set and ready-made dry snacks were the bigger part of our luggage. After the flight, I recommend using the quarantine time as quality time and avoid focusing on what you can’t do. A free-hand exercise routine will help keep up your mental and physical health.
Plan sanity-saving activities you can do in quarantine
- set quantifiable quarantine goals to keep you motivated, such as reading X amount of books
- learn a new recipe, skill, or language online
- make money online as a remote worker or freelancer
- DIY a new website (or update your existing one)
- start a (travel) blog
- launch the online business you’ve always dreamed of
- schedule daily video or voice calls with friends and family.
Have you flown recently or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!
And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.