Hustling sounds, frequent announcements, savvy travellers glued to their gadgets, emotional families waiting to receive or see-off their loved ones – it's perhaps the opening scene of a romantic comedy. A typical bustling international airport is a melting point of several lively emotions.
But the pandemic has brought about a new normal in every sphere of life. The first phase of unlock has seen restarting of transport, including special trains, domestic flight services, state transport vehicles, and autos and taxis.
But if you're thinking of flying in the times of the pandemic, get set for a totally different experience than what your usual jet-setting one.
What is like when you travel with pandemic from the moment you step foot at the airport, to the security check and finally inside the aircraft?
The new normal of flying focuses on the the practice of social distancing, starting from when we arrive at the airport, where all documents, e-ticket or hard copies are checked by the authorities through glass-shielded compartments as travellers queue up for mandatory temperature checks and your health status check on the Aarogya Setu app.
In stark contrast to the previous norms, web check-in is a must and with zero-contact policy, it is a tad difficult to ask for a suitable or your seat of preference as you perhaps used to do while flying.
Boarding passes have to be printed from self serving kiosks and not from the airline representatives! So carry gloves and keep that sanitiser handy.
A maximum of one checked-in luggage and one carry on will have give you no option but to join the "travel-light" club.
The Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3) in Delhi is currently servicing most domestic flights, inlcuding Spicejet and Indigo to name a few. Inside the airport there is no sea change in the security clearance procedures, except the process is faster. A probable cause may be a thinner line of travellers.
Norms of social distancing are prevalent in the seating arrangements at the airport lounge. Special measures were visible for passengers travelling to specific routes, with the glaring instance of the Delhi-Leh flight by one of the major carriers. The airline was distributing PPE kits for every passenger travelling on the said route.
Inside the aircraft, the hygiene protocols seem to be impeccable. With flight attendants in full PPE gear, and basic amenities like sanitiser pouches and masks at every seat, the middle seats are left empty at every row inside the airplane.
Overall, the experience of flying during this time has indeed unlike ever before. With families separated over long periods, business, mostly small and medium stalled, the confidence to travel is slowly but steadily taking a leap forward, revealed conversations with fellow travellers enroute.
But it is the selfless task of the frontline workers, the airline staff, airport officials and staff that is making the process smoother, aiming at ensuring everyone has a safe and pleasant journey.