COVID-19 has thrown the aviation industry into chaos and travelling during this period has changed a lot. Here’s my personal experience on just how hard flying is during this pandemic.
Purchasing airplane tickets is a lot more difficult. A usual search on Skyscanner and Google Flights (prior to the pandemic) always showed many results – from direct flights or multi-stop flights with many options to choose from. However, for my flight to Taipei, only a single direct flight was available from Singapore on my specified date. This was never the case prior to COVID-19 – and even after the purchase, there was a chance that my flight could be cancelled at the last minute as well (I’ve seen many cases of cancelled flights during this period!)
Stricter border restrictions have also made flying a lot harder – especially if you’re going to a location where you are not a citizen. For me, I had obtained a special visa to enter Taiwan, and this visa had a validity of three months from the date of issue. In addition, separate entry documentation was also required at the check-in counter. I was surprised when the check-in staff told me that they were not able to proceed with the check-in till they received a confirmation from their Taiwan counterparts that my name was under the “approved-for-entry” list.
Quarantine, stay-home notice, increased health-screening at airports and more… if you’re travelling internationally, you are highly likely to face some of these measures. Before I could clear immigration in Taipei, I had to purchase a local SIM card and register my arrival online before proceeding further.
To date (on my fifth day of quarantine), I have had to record my temperature on LINE (messaging app) daily as well as respond to the SMS they send periodically – if you fail to respond to it, they will call you up to check on you!
All these health safety measures, while helpful in ensuring that COVID-19 cases are well-detected, are a huge deterrent for travellers. Fourteen days in quarantine is tough as it is both time-consuming and can be very costly, besides being claustrophobic.
Travelling is indeed challenging during this period, but if there’s one thing I enjoy, it is the amount of space each traveller has on flights now. With fewer travellers, coupled with the fact that safe-distancing measures have to be implemented within flights, there is really a lot of space an individual has during the flight. The nearest passenger to me was two rows in front of me, with the majority of rows of seats behind me left empty.
Each airline has its health safety policy. The airline I took, China Airlines, limited the number of passengers within each zone. It also gave each of us a disposable mask with a case upon boarding (I thought that was a very nice gesture!). All food served were in dedicated trays, and there was only one option they had for every passenger.
Travel will not be the same any time soon, but till then, let’s travel only if absolutely necessary. Let’s stay home, stay safe and stay healthy together!