The pandemic has really changed the way people fly. Experiencing it firsthand, I must say that we should avoid non-essential travels. By doing so, we can take part in saving lives. I took a flight from Kuwait to the Philippines because I am going back for good after working for 5 years. But how is my experience flying during the pandemic?
Flying during the pandemic
To be honest, it’s not a good thing to fly unless it is really necessary. The trip was a tiring one. Plus the fear of catching the virus adds to the feeling of being paranoid.
It took me four months to secure a flight from Kuwait to the Philippines. The left and right closing of borders made it hard for me to fly back home. It was just until the last week of July when the chartered flight of August opened. I immediately contacted my company to book a flight for me. The flight cost double compared to normal times.
Before the flight
Before flying, I need to fill up a number of online forms in order to facilitate a smooth journey. On my carry-on bag, I made sure that I have a small bottle of alcohol and a facemask. The flight was scheduled at 17:30 but we were advised to be there by 12:00 or 13:00, unlike the usual 3 hours before departure.
We followed strict protocols at the airport. Proper physical distancing was observed and wearing facemask and gloves is a must. Restaurants are opened but no dine-in. The common waiting area was restructured too in order to follow proper physical distancing. Barriers were placed in between chairs. Before boarding, the ground crews will handle your face shield for you to wear.
Onboard the flight
The flight itself was completely different. Everyone was wearing the face covering. No pillows and blankets provided, unlike the old times. The usual service was given by the cabin attendants but this time all were pre-packed. I have a 9-hour 30-minute flight and there were three services. All boxed-meals included cold sandwiches, chocolate, water, and juice. Forget the hot foods, cola, coffee and tea, wine because all of these are the memory of the past.
Passengers were to disembark on a 30 by 30 group. Again physical distancing is observed. I have to put back the face shield and prepare my passport and two forms, the arrival card and health declaration card. For Filipinos returning back to the Philippines, by this time you should have finished registering online for Redcross information. We were put in a holding room, again by groups. We were oriented about the process and then had our swab test taken.
The swab test for me was a bit painful. Two swabs in your nostrils and one on your throat. After having the swab test, you can proceed to the immigration officer. And then claim your luggage.
Since there was only one flight at that time. Pieces of baggage were loaded into three carousels. Imagine the hardships of finding your luggage in three moving carousels. Once you claim your bags, the real agony starts. We were all gathered and lined up in the arrival area. There were three desks. OWWA for the overseas Filipino workers, MARINA for sea-based, and DOT for Filipinos coming back on a tourist visa. Majority of us were lined up at the OWWA desk in order to verify which hotel we will be quarantined.
The verification took almost 3 hours. Equipped yourself with patience and lots of patience. After knowing the hotel assignment, they will assist you in the shuttle. Another waiting game, because you need to wait for 5 or 6 buses to be full. Checking into the hotel was the fastest. After you get your key and go into the room you can’t go out anymore. Or else, you need to pay the penalty. You can only go out if you received your negative swab test result.
Flying during the pandemic is indeed an agony for me. It was a long and tiring journey. The only good thing about this is that the Philippine government shouldered all the costs. From the swab test, hotel and meals, and transportation. Though tiring, at the end of the day, I am home.
How about you? What is your flying story? Let me know in the comment section.