I thought it would be interesting to share what flying is like during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic! On 25 March 2020, Emirates suspended all passenger flights and the UAE border completely closed. Since this, I have operated only 5 flights – one cargo flight, one repatriation flight and 3 normal, passenger flights. Things have changed dramatically in the airline industry, and travelling is completely different now to just a few months ago.
Back in June, I operated my first flight since the lockdown which was a cargo flight to Washington D.C. This was a complete first and something brand new for cabin crew to do. Emirates has a huge cargo network, but normally, cargo is transported on specific Emirates SkyCargo aircrafts (without Cabin Crew). Due to the amount of PPE cargo needed during the pandemic, Emirates used the passenger aircrafts to transport cargo in the main fuselage – on top of the economy seats. Because of this, cabin crew were required to operate the doors in case of an emergency.
After 3 long months without a single flight, it felt very strange to be working again, although this flight was a lot different. As there were no passengers on the flight, we got to sit in the First Class suites for the whole flight, as long as we monitored the rest of the cabins every 30 minutes. We had an amazing 48 hour layover too!
This is a picture I found online of the cargo inside the aircraft…
Repatriation flights were introduced towards the end of April, purely to transport people back to their home countries. These were special flights for those who had been essentially trapped in Dubai during the closure of the borders and had requested permission to return to their home countries.
These flights were one-way as passengers were still unable to enter the UAE.
I operated a flight to Bahrain and I was surprised how well the flight worked and how customers followed the new procedures carefully. All passengers are required to wear a face mask and gloves at all times, except for when eating, and to ensure social distancing as much as possible. Of course, this is difficult on an aircraft, however, the ground staff did a great job of assigning everyone seats so that they were all spaced out.
Since flights resumed, we have had to adopt a new uniform with additional personal protective equipment (PPE). We now must wear a full length gown over our uniform, a mask (this has recently changed and must be white coloured) a visor and gloves. All of the PPE must be worn before customers board the aircraft until the last passenger has disembarked. We can only remove the PPE to eat, take a rest, or in the event of a fire or an emergency.
Here are some pictures I found online…
The PPE has been well designed and it is pretty comfortable to wear whilst working. You get used to it after a while and it has become the ‘new normal’.
During layovers, we are instructed to stay in the hotel for the entire layover and to refrain from leaving the room. This is for the safety of ourselves, hotel staff and of course our passengers once we get back on board.
I recently had a 24 hour layover flight to Paris where I stayed in the hotel the entire trip! The hotel wasn’t providing room service so I had to collect my meal from the restaurant downstairs, however, I stayed in my room for the rest of the layover. Surprisingly it went really quickly, and I used my time to FaceTime friends and family and catch up on some TV programmes.
Layovers have definitely changed – normally, after checking in, I would be the first one changed and heading out to explore the city!
The Future of Aviation
While no one knows what the future holds, I hope and pray the aviation industry can come back stronger than ever! It is sad to see such a change in flying, with less passengers and fewer flights, however, I genuinely believe things will improve and the industry will get back to pre-COVID-19 times! It might take a while, a couple of years even, but I am sure there is a strong future ahead.
With that, I cannot wait to start getting more flights and seeing new places. My September roster was published yesterday so I will be sharing that with you in the next few days, stay tuned!
Thanks for reading.