It was December 24, 2020. For the first time after the pandemic, my friends and I booked a cab to the airport. We boarded our cab at 3 pm, with two-and-a-half hours to spare, and headed to the airport for a 5.30 pm Air Asia flight to Goa. The cab driver waited patiently for us to assemble our luggage into the boot of the cab. Then, we were finally off and away from “Work From Home” chores, and were back into the magical realm of travel.
As we got down from our cabs after what was a rather quick drive, the sight of the airport seemed to be from a past life. It was also our first uneasy moment of venturing into a public space known for a high risk of infection. It caused many knots in our stomachs and some anxious breaths. We proceeded to join other passengers who had formed a line at the entrance and maintained an arm’s distance from each other. Greetings from the army personnel, who were both surprisingly cheerful and comforting, helped us de-stress and feel safe in these hard times. Once inside the airport, we found the Air Asia counter and checked in our luggage. All check-in processes proceeded like in the pre-pandemic world.
Later, during the security check, we were screened for electronic gadgets and metal objects, among other things. Although these were routine airport procedures for flights, as in the past, I never saw them in such detail as I did now. It was a Zen-like experience for me.
As we reached the boarding gate, we were given a plastic bag containing a face mask, face shield, long thin white jacket, and gloves which are to be worn by every passenger in the flight. In addition, passengers sitting on the middle seat had to wear an additional white jacket. I was the chosen one as I was allotted a middle seat! Yet I felt fortunate and incredibly safe, both protected in my PPE gear and in mitigating the spread of the virus.
Once past the boarding gate, we walked into the bus that drove us to the airplane. Inside the bus, I saw many other middle-seat folks, like myself, wearing the added protective jacket. It was a reassuring moment to see such high levels of COVID protocols followed and enforced by airline authorities and the airport. As we stepped outside the bus to board the airplane, the first rays of the sun shone brightly over us.
Once on the plane, we were made to sit in our seats. The mandatory protocols were announced by the cabin crew, with additional instructions on remaining in our protective PPE gear through the journey. It was a cagey and tedious experience. But being able to fly during this unfortunate pandemic made the cumbersomeness of the gear seem trivial.
Note to self… Based on my experience, here are five pieces of advice I would like to share with other travellers in the new normal
While I rummaged through all these thoughts about the new normal, before I knew it, we had reached the sun-kissed state of Goa and landed in Dabolim. The airport and the flight staff ran us through the mandatory security procedures. We exited the airport and took a cab to Hardrock Hotel in Calangute in Goa. The journey had changed, but the excitement of our destination hadn’t – it was Goa!