Flying During Covid-19? Here Are The 4 Things You Need To Know
Gen.T’s digital editor Samantha Mei Topp recently flew from Hong Kong to the United States during the Covid-19 pandemic without the coronavirus vaccine. Here’s what she learned
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the airport was the emptiness—there was no jangle of music, no scent of restaurants and no last-minute passengers sprinting for their flight. Just silence and a couple of very bored people spread out at a Covid-safe distance. But it did make the usually stressful check-in and security process breezy and surprisingly personable.
After getting through security I realised my airport experience was going to be very different from the norm. From food to sanitation, here are the four things you need to know before you fly during Covid-19.
1. The Airport—Expect Intense Boredom, Loud Construction And Limited Food
Unless you’re flying first class or business, it’s likely there won’t be an airport lounge open for you. Either be prepared to wait around on a bench for a few hours, or plan to arrive at the airport much later. Some airports do offer ticketed lounges, so it’s worth seeing if your airport offers this in advance.
After checking in, I went straight through security. I strongly advise you don’t do this—I ended up being stuck on the side of the airport with zero stores open, lots of construction and only one open restaurant, which was sold out of most of its meals. The best approach is to check in your bags and wait in the public area of the airport, which is likely to have more stores and restaurants open, and then go through security right before you need to be at your gate.
2. Eating On The Plane During Covid-19
Like many during Covid-19, my flight was very empty. Airline staff said there were around 60 people in the entire economy section. While this was great for leg room and sleeping space, it wasn’t the best for food options. The reduced capacity was likely the reason for the limited food menu; instead of options, we were all given the same meal of fish, vegetables and ice cream. The food was still tasty, but if you weren’t a fan of fish, there was little else to choose from. Consider bringing snacks to keep your hunger at bay.
If you have dietary restrictions, you can mark that online when you book your ticket. I chose dairy-free meals in advance, but because of the limited menu I ended up being given a chicken drumstick dinner meal for breakfast instead of the normal breakfast omelette and yoghurt that was given to other passengers. If your dietary requirements aren’t a necessity or you can manage without it for a meal or two, I’d advise against being too selective in favour of better food.
3. Print Out Everything You’ll Need In Advance (Yes, Print)
Ironically enough, this ended up being the hardest task of all. I’ve never owned a printer, and I don’t think printing cafes are a thing anymore? I checked my airline’s website as well as the United States Health Department website to see what documents I’d need to provide in advance and I got everything printed before heading to the airport.
Flying out of Hong Kong, you must have a negative Covid-19 test completed and printed in advance to show airline staff when you check in. Make sure to check the Covid-19 test requirements of the country you're entering, in my case, the United States required a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours of arriving in the country. Some countries will also require you to fill out a health form online as well, so make sure to research the country-specific requirements needed so you can do this in advance. You may also need to fill out a health declaration form. If you haven’t done this in advance, the airline crew will likely hand this out for you to fill in on the flight.
4. Prepare Your Own In-Flight Cleaning Supplies
Planes are notorious for their uncleanliness, and while it’s likely the aircraft is cleaner than ever before thanks to Covid-19 precautions, it definitely can’t hurt to do a bit of additional sanitising. Here’s my suggested list of what you should bring to keep your flight clean and safe.
- Level 3 masks and ear loops if you need to tighten your mask—multiple masks are best so you can change them as often as you need.
- Spray sanitiser and gel sanitiser. (Spray sanitiser isn’t really necessary, but spraying it around the general vicinity just makes everything feel cleaner.)
- Disposable gloves.
- Disinfectant wipes.
- Ziploc bags.
Tip As cabin crew are often busy, especially pre-flight, I took all of the disinfectant wipes I’d used to clean my seat and put them into a Ziploc bag so I didn’t need to hold them and wait. You can also use disposable gloves to do this.
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