Although airline travel is down by more than 90 percent, some people are still flying and are stunned to learn just how much flying has changed in only a few short months.
At first, you might think it must be “so easy” to fly right now – less travelers to get in your way, shorter lines at TSA, and possibly even an entire plane to yourself.
Sounds great, right? Well, in this bizarre COVID-19 pandemic reality, travel has reached a whole new level of invasiveness – and it’s scary.
Like A Sci-Fi Movie
Remember those pandemic movies we’ve all seen as a kid – government agents walking around in hazmat suits and sick people being quarantined and isolated from their families?
In our bizarre reality, this is actually happening at airports, and it’s creepy.
But it’s not just those who are sick who are being forced to adopt to new protocols – it’s everybody.
All major US airlines have mandated their passengers wear masks at all times – at check-in, when boarding, on the aircraft, and exiting the plane.
Imagine how uncomfortable it’s going to be to sit on a long flight (or even a short flight) without being able to breathe properly.
And what’s even more annoying is every single airline has different “safety” protocols – making things even more complicated.
From airline staff and passengers sporting full-blown hazmat suits (yes seriously) to other travelers waltzing around the airport not even wearing masks themselves.
As Condé Nast Traveler reported:
“At the end of April, fashion executive Kristin Karabees flew with her daughter from New York to her parents’ home in Phoenix. At LaGuardia, she says, almost everyone wore a mask. “People were six feet apart,” she says. “You’ve never seen such a smooth boarding process.”
The situation was very different in Atlanta, where they changed planes. “It was packed,” Karabees says. “All the fast food places were open. People were cutting in front of us. I would say half the people didn’t have masks at all.”
And of course, without a uniform policy, chaos is going to continue as people aren’t going to know what they are supposed to do.
A simple flight to Florida for vacation is now going to feel like boarding a post-Apocalypse evacuation jet.
And the rest of us who just want to travel from Point A to Point B are going to be stuck in the middle of the all too familiar battle of safety vs. liberty as unequipped airlines struggle to force more mandates on already weary travelers.
Blood Samples Before Flying?
We get it, airlines don’t want people with COVID-19 flying on their planes.
So some airlines are taking people’s temperatures before and during flights.
Others are taking safety measures to the extreme – and actually mandating blood samples for travelers before they board an aircraft.
One traveler recalled a horrific tale of trying to get home to the United States and having to take a route through Dubai.
Before he was allowed to board, he was forced to undergo a blood screening to make sure he didn’t have COVID-19.
This is the new reality folks, get ready.
The same thing happened post 9/11.
Drastic measures were taken to keep everyone “safe” – as if confiscating grandma’s tweezers or pop-pop’s toothpaste is actually stopping terrorists.
And sure enough, regular travelers are forced to undergo invasive pat down gropings by angry TSA agents – not to mention the annoyance of having to remove shoes, belts, jewelry, etc. (unless you have TSA PreCheck).
It’s one thing to implement smart procedures to keep people safe, it’s another to force travelers to undergo invasive procedures and give up personal liberties.
History seems to be repeating itself.
With many airlines not completely filling their planes – it’s clear they’re losing some serious dough.
But do you think they are willing to take the hit?
They’re passing it onto us.
From increased fees to check a bag (which you should never do to begin with) to increased fares – expect the cost of air travel to go up.
As if airlines weren’t unreliable enough, flight cancelations have now reached a whole new level.
Expect to experience last minute cancelations and dramatic flight changes.
And good luck trying to get your money back for an altered flight change, as airlines like United have already changed their policy 5 times during a worldwide pandemic to keep you confused and off balance.
One traveler revealed her experience when trying to take a flight home.
Condé Nast Traveler reported:
Author Kim Ghattas was planning to travel home to Beirut from Washington, D.C., at the end of March. A few days before her departure, it was announced that Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport would be shut down.
“I stayed put in D.C. and waited to see—perhaps I could get to London and wait,” since Lebanon’s national carrier flies there, Ghattas says. Her first flight to London was canceled; her travel agent was able to rebook her, but that flight was canceled, too.
“I was lucky I booked through a travel agent,” she says. “”I would have spent hours on the phone to the airline, trying to get the next flight and the next flight and the next flight.”
But in reality, most travelers don’t book with travel agents.
So if you are trying to get home, you’ll likely be forced to spend hours on the phone or at the gate trying to get a flight rebooked…
… and with reduced staff and lack of clarity in policies, it is bound to make things even more miserable.
If you actually have to be on time for an event and you plan on flying, explore alternate routes to your destination and have a backup plan (or even 3-4 backup plans) ready to go.
Include a plan to rent a car and drive the remainder of your trip.
Airline travel is bound to be wildly unpredictable in the imminent future.
Expect crazy and drastic policies from different airlines as each one experiments with different policies – with you as the guinea pig.
Welcome to the new wave of travel – buckle up (and don’t forget your face mask).
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