There is still a pandemic going on, but for some people flying is inescapable, especially when it involves flying home. When lockdown was first announced in March, I had the hard decision to make of staying in London or flying home to California to be with my family. I chose to stay in London – the flights were packed and I feared bringing the virus home with me. At the end of May though I was able to get a flight out to San Francisco to spend the next three months with my family on lockdown. With my lease ending in London in the fall and still working full-time for a London based company, I decided to fly back mid-August and move into a new flat and continue the life I’ve built in the UK. Having now flown twice during the pandemic, I have a few tips and possibly some reassuring experiences.
Both times I flew with British Airways – they have become my favourite airline to fly since moving to the UK – and flew out of London Heathrow. Heathrow has implemented a few new health and safety rules, including making masks mandatory, having social distancing measures, and having multiple hand sanitiser stations around the airport. San Francisco had similar rules to Heathrow. SFO was considerably less crowded than Heathrow both times I flew.
The airlines have implemented quite a few measures as well. On my flight from London to SFO, the middle seat was open, and most airlines are trying to keep the middle seat open. However, I’m sure we’ve all seen the horror stories on Twitter so I would keep an eye on the seat map or even call the airline to check. On my flight from SFO to London, I had the whole row to myself – almost everyone did as there were only about 100 of us on the flight. Many people aren’t flying long-haul flights these days so those may be emptier. However, short-haul flights to Europe might be more crowded as quarantine measures are beginning to lift across the continent. Additionally, the flight attendants handed out prepackaged snack bags and prepackaged meals, both of which included additional sanitising wipes. The planes were boarded and deboarded based on rows – loaded back to front – rather than by seating group number.
Things to bring with you:
A small bottle of hand sanitiser (3 oz or less so you can bring it through security!) – While the airport has many sanitising stations, I would suggest bringing your own so you can sanitise as much as you want without being tethered to one of the stations. That way you can also sanitise when you’re on the plane as well.
Sanitising Wipes – For similar reasons as hand sanitiser, I brought the wipes so I could wipe down my plane seat and my luggage. The planes are obviously sanitised between flights but for my peace of mind I wiped my seats down anyway.
Extra Masks – The airline requires masks on the flight when you’re not eating or drinking. After wearing one mask for a few hours, I HAD to change it. It just feels really gross, especially after I slept for a few hours. I also put on a new one after arriving to leave the airport feeling refreshed.
For the most part, people adhered to social distancing measures and everyone wore masks without complaint. The flights attendants and airport staff were all kind and accommodating. Since many people aren’t flying, the security lines were short and quick. Honestly, it was the easiest and most comfortable travel I have ever experienced (except for the face masks – I won’t be keeping that habit in the future).
If you are traveling while the world is still in a pandemic, please make sure you are aware of the new safety policies and adhere to them. They are there to protect you and to protect everyone else!
- Keep your distance!
- Wear your mask!
- Research the safety measures of the airport and the airline.
Just a few pictures from my summer at home: