• Russell Levinson

What is it like to fly and travel during the pandemic?

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

The first thing is that everyone is required to wear a mask for almost the entirety of the trip. From the Uber ride, to the airport, the plane, the next airport, the next plane, and the next Uber ride, and then all the way until inside the hotel room. The only breaks are inside the plane bathroom, and when eating or drinking. I rec0mmend having a few different kinds of masks to be comfortable.

In the beginning of the pandemic, the airports were like ghost towns and even in November, the airports were clearly hurting.

I was so confused to find a bunch of candy listed at 90 percent off in Chicago while I was connecting to go to Turkey. It took me a few minutes to understand, and even asked the cashier if the sign was correct. The airport stores were sitting on a ton of products that were quickly approaching their expiration dates. I bought one giant bag of M&M's for $1.50! Many of the shops, restaurants, and lounges at the airports were closed.... some permanently. It might be a good idea to bring your own food or snacks.

Airport and airline staff attempt to keep people 6 feet apart, but that is almost impossible when boarding an airplane. On the plane, service was different.... either diminished or changed. Almost everything is now plastic wrapped or somehow sealed up for safety. Turkish Airlines served meals in a giant box, but JetBlue seemed to be same as usual. Emirates staff wore disposable gowns, gloves, masks, and face shields.

Turkish Airlines also made everyone check their carry-on roller bags, which I thought was odd, but they felt this would keep people from touching the overhead bins and possibly spreading the virus. In Las Vegas, the huge amount of drinking and eating allow for many to keep masks off for extended periods of time, despite casinos efforts to keep everyone safe. In October, there were no shows open. Both in Dubai and Turkey, most people were wearing masks everywhere.

Also, before even booking a flight everyone should check to see if they are even eligible to fly to their destination. I flew to Turkey without any requirements but had to provide a negative Covid PCR test before being allowed to board my flight to Dubai.

On the plane, you may be asked to fill out a form for your destination country. You may also be questioned or stopped before passing through immigration, although I did not have any issue in Turkey or Dubai. The U.S. is now requiring proof of a negative Covid-19 test in order to enter, even for citizens. Getting a test in an international city may prove difficult and expensive. Note that Mexican resorts are starting to offer those tests on-site, so you can go back home with the required test.

So, if you make it into your destination country, you will most likely encounter a national mask mandate, as I did in Turkey and Dubai. Although, you can probably be mask free on the beaches/pools in addition to eating/drinking. You will likely find plenty of hand sanitizer stations at restaurants/bars/hotels, etc.

Your hotel may have limited housekeeping, as well as taking extra cleaning precautions. The tv remote is probably wrapped in plastic. There may be free masks in your room.

In Dubai, life mostly went on as usual. With everyone wearing masks, everything was pretty much open. While other countries have curfews and further restrictions that would basically make a vacation not worthwhile, Dubai, which is built on tourism, is starting to see Covid cases triple., hence they are starting to restrict some activities.

As we enter 2021, we are seeing surges in cases worldwide in addition to new variants that are really going to shut down most travel again. I don't foresee much positive change until at least late March or April. The travel options that did exist for Mexico, Turkey, and Dubai are still open, but now become much more difficult with the new restrictions for returning to the U.S. Many countries like Thailand (14-day quarantine for all) are being extremely cautious even though their economies are being devastated.

My next trip is going to be a short stay in Manhattan (20 miles from my home) with my dog. Hotel rates are way down and Central Park is calling my name.

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