Here in Sydney, we’ve been allowed to fly for a while now, but I’ve stayed put for the entirety of COVID, mostly because I’m broke as fuck, but also ‘cos I’ve been nervy about air travel during a pandemic.
But last week, I had to fly down to the gorgeous Byron Bay for a work trip, which I was more than happy to do ‘cos: A) Free trip to Byron – hell yeah! And B) Duty calls.
So off I went, on a local flight from Sydney Domestic Airport to Ballina Airport, and while I knew the journey wouldn’t be quite the same as a trip any other time of the year, there were a coupla things I wasn’t quite expecting so I thought I’d fill you in as you’re no-doubt planning your Spring / Summer vacays as we speak.
Before the flight, I did what every other millennial does: Ask their parents what time to rock up for a domestic flight.
Now, if I’d asked my Dad, he would’ve been like, “7:20AM flight? You need to be there at 3:00AM on the dot, or you’ve missed it.”
So instead, I asked my level-headed Mum, and she said to rock up an hour before. I heeded her advice, and even the Uber driver commented that if anything, I was too early since people aren’t really flying much right now, but thank fuck I did rock up an hour before because they started boarding about 20 minutes earlier than they normally would to accommodate for COVID-friendly travel.
Free hygiene prods
While airlines obvs encourage folks to wear masks while they travel, some bozos forget to bring one, so lucky for them, masks are provided.
Qantas and Jetstar provide what’s called a ‘Fly Well Pack’ as you’re going through the gate, which is a ziplock bag that includes a disposable face mask, and two of those KFC-esque hand-wipes, one for your mits and the other for surfaces (the seat, the tray etc, etc).
The wipes are alcohol-free and last for up to 24 hours and, according to the packet, protects against 99.99% of germs.
Zero social-distancing from the gate to your seat
As you’re going through the gate, they check your temperature, which is great and all, but here’s the kicker.
While they take certain COVID-safe measures to ensure your safety at the airport, the concept of social-distancing is tossed out the proverbial plane window once you get past the gate.
Folks bunch up against each other while waiting to board the plane, in anticipation of getting to their seat. It’s, erm, very red-hot.
Zero social-distancing on the plane
Call me naive, but I was under the impression that one of the perks of pandemic travel was that the fear of copping the middle seat was no more, ‘cos surely every second seat would be free, right?
The flight to and from Byron were both PACKED to brim. Every. Single. Seat. Was. Full.
In fact, my row was filled with three full-figured dudes (myself being one of them), and it essentially felt like we were sitting on top of each other, so, yeah, not ideal.
Plus, when you’re lining up to pick up / retrieve your bags from the overhead compartment, everyone crowds together as per usual. Again, not ideal.
Waiting for your bags
Again, zero social-distancing. People are just so keen to grab their shit and get the fuck out of there, that they’ll happily crowd the conveyer-belt, as always, and it’s not COVID-safe at all.
Look, I blame a lot of these complaints on people being dicks / more keen to get to their destination than ensuring the safety of themselves and others, but I also blame the airlines for not enforcing the rules well as they probably could.
Then again, when you’re cramming that many people into an airplane, there’s not all that much you can do, aye?
But anyway, I just thought I should let you guys know what the sitch is, in case you go in with the impression that it’s a COVID-safe paradise.
‘Cos hate to burst your bubble, but it ain’t.