What is it like to fly these days? Internationally. No personal experience… but the next best thing. My son just returned to the UK ; I did pay for the ticket.
Saturday night Hunter flew from Toronto’s Pearson Airport to Heathrow in London on Air Canada in premium economy. He was supposed to take the morning flight which is my absolute favorite way to go to Europe. You do spend a whole day on the plane, it leaves around 8 am and arrives around 8/9 pm depending on daylight savings. But I find there is almost no jet lag which usually kills me on an overnight flight. Right now Air Canada is only operating one direct flight a day so he was moved to the red eye. The day flight can still be booked for later in the year, but whether it will actually fly will depend on demand and what happens with Covid.
Hunter was not able to check in online so had to check in at the airport. He noted this was straight forward as was the rest of his airport experience. Everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing. The airport was not crowded, some restaurants were open (not Starbucks) and you could buy water etc. Duty free was open.
Getting through security was efficient. There are so many fewer travelers that the queues were short. Everyone goes to through the same line. There is no longer a separate one for Nexus or Business Class travelers. They check you temperature before you enter the line which is marked with places to stand that are 6 feet apart. Only two people approached the luggage x-ray belt at any time, one at each end.
Boarding was equally easy. Hunter had to walk through business class to get to his seat and said it looked pretty full. The pods provide privacy and some social distancing. Premium economy’s configuration was 2-4-2. There was only one person in each 2 and 2 people in each 4. Premium economy used the same bathroom as economy so Hunter was able to see what was happening there. He said it was a 3-4-3 configuration with only two people in each. He recommended booking in the middle 4. Because the flight was not very busy most of these people were able to stretch out across all the seats. Air Canada gives every passenger a Covid-Kit which includes a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes.
There was only one food/drink service. There are no meal options. In an effort to please as many people as possible (vegetarian, gluten free…) Hunter said the food was very bland and frankly, pretty awful. He was pleased he’d packed a meal from home. Drink offerings were limited too…bottles of water, cans of soda and red or white wine. Crew did not come through the cabin with these again but he guessed you could probably get more water if you needed it.
I was surprised to hear they did not deplane in some sort of order as I usually find this is the crowdedest part of a flight; everyone fighting to get their overhead stuff and get off as quickly as possible. There were so few people on the plane that there was no need to cram or rush. Hunter had checked a bag. It was waiting on the carousel by the time he got to baggage claim.
Every passenger entering the UK must complete a fairly lengthy online form detailing their recent travel and where they will be staying complete with phone numbers and exact address. You are supposed to complete it 48 hours before your board your plane. As a UK citizen, Hunter used the automatic kiosks (Canadians can use them too). He mentioned they did ask everyone if they had completed the online form before proceeding to customs/kiosk.
Hunter felt safe throughout. He said the Air Canada plane was spotless. The crew always wore masks and full sanitary scrubs. Passengers also wore masks, both on the plane and in the airport. While it is not the most comfortable thing for more than 7 hours, it was really no big deal especially if it makes it easier for us all to stay safe and start traveling again.
What are your thoughts on traveling during Covid? I’d love to hear.
all photos (except the covid kit) are from air canada