Flying in the pandemic

We heard a lot of different things about flying since May 25, when airports reopened across the country. The early flights were crowded and had unreliable schedules. It was not yet clear how safe airports and aircrafts would be. There was a lot of drama about cleaning surfaces, but not enough was being written about cleaning the air. By October the outlines of the problem and its solution were clear enough that there were media stories about it. The two points about safety I got were this. First, planes usually have very good airflow and filtration systems, and the air is scrubbed clean much faster than in the building where I work. As a result, the main risk is from people around you transmitting viruses in the usual way: breathing, talking, and coughing. The second point is that we already know how to deal with this: masks and shield, and distancing, when possible. I realized that I had lost my fear of flying in the time of the pandemic.

This tree near the check-in counters makes the empty airport look welcoming

We put this to practice a couple of weeks back, when I realized that The Family and I have never had a holiday in Kolkata. There would be no year better than 2020 to see Christmas lights in this city, since most people are still avoiding going out. We knew that we are taking risks, and it would be safer to stay home, as others are doing. But perhaps with good masks, worn as well and as safely as we know how to, and other safetly precautions, we can still travel now and then. As it turned out, Mumbai airport (photos here) was not crowded. It was possible to deposit baggage, check in, pass through security, and wait in the passenger areas while maintaining distance most of the time. The aircrafts we traveled by were far from full. The airlines are not taking care to maintain distance between occupied seats, but when the load is so little, it is possible to move to seats as far from others as you can. Airlines hand out mask, shield, and sanitizer when you board, and we used them all. Arrivals is a little more chaotic, with knots of people around baggage collection areas, and the exits. Nevertheless, we felt very safe because all the passengers behaved sensibly; the pandemic has encouraged civility. I am happy we tried this out, I think flying is a risk we may be able to take now and then as we wait for a vaccine.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Are you required to present a Covid-19 test result to be able to fly? 2020 was the first time in many years I didn’t travel by airplane. Although I feel a little bit more confident to fly now, the idea of having to get tested to be able to board a plane makes me think twice whether it will worth the hassle or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here you are required to make a self-declaration, and to load a contact tracing app on your phone. Depending on your point of origin, your destination airport may require a mandatory test.

      I’ve been tested twice by now. The swab is a little uncomfortable, but I guess it is no more inconvenient than a blood test.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very to see you’ve taken the plunge 🙂
    And that your flight experience was a good one. Ours wasn’t quite as much when we had to board a plane in Aug and then again in Nov.
    But we traveled by train during Christmas (had to lie at home though and feel so bad about it) and was a very good experience. Amazingly clean coaches and all passengers following protocols. Maybe, I should write about it.
    I’ll eagerly wait to read your Kolkata posts. Have lived there for 3 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed to fly twice in 2020 and found the process amazingly safe because it was so uncrowded. Once, a plane that normally held over 80 only had 12 passengers. Others, I am told, flying on other airlines, did not have the same reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

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