Opinion: Airplane Travel Now a Surreal Experience


Andre Arissol

Taken by Andre Arissol, Andre is boarding for take off on a plane in L.A. and everyone has taken their seats.

On April. 3, after putting off the inevitable and, realizing this Covid-19 pandemic was not getting any better, I flew from Honolulu to my home in London to be with my family. As I was worried about the unknown of when the next time the boarders will re-open before they closed. Traveling to England felt like I was in an episode of a “Black Mirror.” However, even though it was the quickest I have ever walked through the airport protocols (check-in and security), it was the most bizarre experience I have been through. Because airports are usually filled with hundreds of people running around the airport and this time it felt like it was just me and a few other travelers I managed to encounter.

Dragging two 60 pound suitcases towards an empty counter at Delta Airlines to check-in was a struggle of its own. Even worse to start my trip off was only to find nobody behind the desk. Because airports have not only been empty, but the number of staff working has also decreased dramatically. Checking in is now very quick as when traveling during this pandemic, I noticed that I was the only one at that time checking in to fly, as I was attending my morning flight to LAX.

LAX airport on April 3 was eerily empty. (Photo by Andre Arissol)

After checking in I walked straight through to security. At this moment I was debating whether I felt like royalty or the last man on the planet to board the flight to Mars. When you go through to security you are usually waiting 30 minutes to over an hour depending on the time of your arrival. But this time it took me less than 10 minutes to get through the standard service. However, airports now have respectfully new protocols to help prevent the virus from spreading. Airports will request that we pass our boarding passes and passports from a red dotted line that was around six feet away from the workers. I’m assuming its normal to feel like an alien at this point. As you will have to lunge and put it into the box, that the employee is handing out in front of you so contact is avoided. The travelers at my gate had to go through the same experience and found it a little too much to be doing.

“oh no yeah, when I threw my boarding pass and passport to the man I felt like I was a walking disease,” Said 26-year-old hairstylist Carol O’Donoghue who was traveling back home to Germany from LAX from a hair convention. “it’s just too much if you ask me.” O’Donoghu was forced to go back home as the German embassy was pressuring her before she gets stuck until further notice.

After security, the expected tendency is to plan what’s next before obligated to be at the gate, do I have time to shop? do I have time to sit down at a restaurant or do I get it to go? So here is where and why I label this trip as an episode of “Black Mirror”. No employees, no travelers will be present. Even walking through duty-free or the airport. However, there will be frequent janitors practically doing double the amount of work to keep everything and everyone safe. All shops and food stations are sadly closed.

” Luckily I’ve traveled a couple of times this week already, so I knew that restaurants would be closed,” Stated Michal Caution, a 25-year-old from San Jose who was traveling from Hawaii after he was forced to cut his trip short with his partner due to the virus. ” but yeah its tough if you don’t know (laughs) just make sure you come prepared or have a good stomach (laughs again.)

At my gate, there was an elderly couple, a man with a dog (who the dog was also wearing a mask), and a family with three kids. On my second flight to London, there were 19 people in total. However, to cure my starvation there was a Starbucks open.

Boarding flights seemed to be as normal, due to the lack of people flying and the number of flights being terminated, it means the few people who do risk flying get a lot of the plane to themselves. I didn’t have to worry about sleeping weird, or leaning my chair back to far, or even trying to let one rip without being too loud.

Other people around the world who have also flown during the Covid-19 have had similar experiences to myself and other travelers,

“To be honest, I felt so odd, because I already knew that this crisis was going to affect the way we live day today but I didn’t think flying home would feel so dangerous, ” said 19-year-old Cameron Fin, who traveled from NYC to his home in Brazil on April. 10, ” it opens your eyes to how vulnerable we are as humans and that we are not as strong as we think because this virus is hitting not just working-class but famous people too.”

The airports ( Los Angeles, London Heathrow) handled the virus pandemic very well, as there were always people cleaning and making sure that there was a distance between travelers, and that everyone was remaining sanitary, providing hand soap, and more information on the given countries requirement towards COVID-19. However, Thankfully I am home and that episode of Black Mirror is over.

“We take this pandemic seriously as everyone should,” said an employee working for LAX as he was cleaning the chairs. “To some degree, people would blame airports for spreading it so much and we must take ownership and show that we are fighting this by all means.”