Before the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world and changed life as we know it, I used to fly at least once a month if not more. But since March, I’ve not flown at all. That is, until now.
After months of staying in, working from home and pretty much-doing everything from home base, only going out for groceries and other necessities, I began to miss travelling. At first, I wasn’t ready to fly, which comes as no surprise. With everything that’s been going on, we know it’s best to lay low, keep contact down, and stay safe. But, speed ahead five months as we sette into July, and I needed to getaway. So, I travelled locally within my province of Ontario for two weeks, and while that trip was memorable, I came home still wanting more.
Photo by 周 康
After much time and consideration, I decided I’d fly to British Columbia (Vancouver Island to start) and spend some time getting to know the most western part of Canada a little bit better. As August 5th rolled around, I was all packed and ready to go, and it was time to head to the airport to experience what flying was like during a pandemic, and kick off a new adventure.
The airport was like a ghost town.
As we masked up and walked into Pearson airport in Toronto, we could see right away that things would not be the same as they once were. From the moment you walk in, it was apparent. During past summers, the same section of the airport would be bustling with people, running off to vacation with family or friends, rushing with luggage to catch their non-pressing flights. Now, it was like tumbleweeds could blow right through like an abandoned town in an old western. It truly felt like a real-life ghost town.
Coffee shops like Starbucks were shut down, with signage saying “Temporarily closed until further notice.” Even Tim Horton’s in one of the airports we flew through was shut down, something I never thought I’d see in Canada. Some stores were open with workers looking for some passing traffic, but for the most part with 1/2 to 1/4 of restaurants closed, 1/4 of the shops, most airport and VIP lounges also shut, it was a far cry from travelling just a year ago at the same time.
Passing through security was quite the same old thing. What’s new? They have implemented social distancing throughout the waiting line and a health check including temperature scan, you must pass to proceed to your flight and ultimately, to travel. Going through security was pretty easy and straight forward. Security would have been slower due to social distancing, but with so few people was reasonably quick.
(there was one busy check-in at person airport for the regular ticketholders, but we were fortunate enough to check-in via priority and thus skipped the only line we saw through our travels)
Flights were busier than expected.
Once we got through security and the other required checkpoints and made our way to the gate, we were surprised by the number of people waiting there. While boarding the flight, we would find out that it would be a fairly full flight with approximately 160 out of 190 seats taken.
At the time we boarded, I must admit, as was a little concerned, but as the day went on, my fears would subside, and my faith in my fellow humans would be somewhat strengthened.
It’s mandated to wear a mask throughout airports; it was also required at all times that you aren’t eating or drinking during flights. Alongside that, as you’re seated, you were provided with a Clean Care Pack that offers sanitizer, wipes, gloves, a mask, pretzels and water, to help prepare you for your flight and overall travels.
On the flight, there was no mingling of congregating allowed, only needed trips to the bathroom. While it was a bit of a strange way to fly, especially when the flight attendants served drinks in what seemed like full surgical scrubs, it wasn’t too bad, and most if not all were very adherent to the rules and respectful of each other’s space.
Wearing a mask for hours can be a bit much, (massive shoutout to all the healthcare and frontline workers, most of us had no idea what it was even like to wear a mask) but, as I’ve found from travelling, it helps to change it out after a few hours and use a new or cleaned one.
From end to end, I had to keep my mask on for about 7/8 hours, and honestly, it wasn’t too bad at all (I used two and switched about halfway through.)
Flying, security, the airport was all pretty much the same as you’d expect. What was different was:
- Mask requirement at all times
- Sanitizer at entry points and throughout security lines
- No food served on flights.
- Half of restaurants and stores were closed at all airports we fly through (Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto)
- Most international gates are closed, be aware what part of the airports you should be dropped off at
- We had no issues with luggage, but all flights asked passengers to check their carry-ons as there wasn’t room.
- Social distancing is required at all times that it’s possible.
One thing you should be aware of when flying in Canada, they are not spacing seats (meaning you will not have a seat between you and another passenger in your row). Most flights were almost full. Our flight home had two seats open on the entire plane, just something to be aware of as you plan to start flying again.
Some tips? Pack a selection of masks, sanitizer, wipes, extra water, and like I always do, make sure you travel with a few snacks to keep yourself going, now more than ever, if you chose to travel, you must be prepared while doing so.
So, as mentioned, be prepared, stay informed and make sure to take the time to stay travelling while staying safe. It’s about knowing what expected along the way, and not only planning for your trip but bringing the necessary tools to keep you and your travel companions happy, comfortable and safe.