Air Travel During Covid-19

Two weeks back I traveled to Kolkata from Bangalore.

I started at around three o’clock in the morning. The airport approved cabs were perfectly sanitized. The driver sanitized my luggage before putting them into the car. Also, the cab was compartmentalized with a transparent plastic curtain between the front and the back seats.

I reached the airport two hours prior to the scheduled time of flight. Multiple checks had to be done before being allowed inside the airport.

Boarding pass and identity cards were checked. Body temperature and Arogya Setu app status was checked the next. The status of the Arogya Setu app confirms whether we have traveled from any containment zone or not.

The smell of sanitizers and phenyl welcomed me inside the airport. The smell was very similar to what one gets inside a hospital. Kiosks were all set up for generating baggage tags and dropping our luggage. Almost everything at the airport was automated. The airport was totally ready for a no-contact experience.

I generated baggage tags from a kiosk and dropped my luggage at the respective airline counter and moved on to the security check. The CRPF guys scanned the hand baggage as they usually do. Electronics devices, belts, and wallets had to be kept on a separate tray. The body scans involved no contact.

Once the security check was cleared, everybody was provided with masks, sanitizer sachets, and face shields in the boarding area. The middle seat ticket holders were also provided with PPE tops.

Boarding usually starts 45 mins before the scheduled departure. But it started 75 mins before the schedule as social distancing was being followed and the boarding process was slower than usual.

Before boarding everybody was handed with self-declaration forms stating the below points –

  1. I have not tested Covid-19 positive in the last two months.
  2. I am not suffering from any cough/ lever/ respiratory distress.
  3. If I develop any of the symptoms mentioned in point 2, I will contact the local health authorities without any delay.
  4. I will make my mobile number/ contact details available to the local authorities for contact tracing if required by them.
  5. I undertake to strictly adhere to the protocol as prescribed by the health authority for Home Quarantine without any deviation.
  6. I understand that furnishing any incorrect information would make me liable to penal action.

I filled up the self-declaration form and boarded the plane.

What followed was business as usual.

The flight landed in Kolkata after 135 minutes.

Wearing a face shield over a tight mask in an enclosed environment was very suffocating. I tried to sleep through the entire journey, but all my efforts were in vain. Overall it was a very uncomfortable journey.

After landing we were transported to the terminal by bus. On reaching the airport, we were asked to throw away our PPEs and face shields into a dustbin specifically kept for this purpose.

Lastly, body temperatures were checked and a mandatory home quarantine of 14 days was advised before letting anyone out of the airport.

P.S. Special thanks and salute to the people wearing PPE suits on duty daily in this hot and humid weather.

Akash Chaudhuri
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