Several people were stranded at places far from home following the lockdowns, closing of borders, and cancellation of international flights to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. When these restrictions are being gradually lifted, some stranded people have certain unique travel experiences.
Prathap Pillai, belonging to Alappuzha in Kerala, has such an event to narrate as he was the lone passenger on a flight from Frankfurt to Singapore on June 14.
Pillai, who works in the maritime industry, had travelled from Singapore to Hamburg in Germany in March as part of his official duties. Soon after he reached Hamburg, a lockdown was implemented and all international flights from Germany were cancelled.
Held up in Hamburg, Pillai continued there for three months. In June, several countries started resumption of international flights and Pillai searched for means to leave Germany.
In the first week of June, Pillai could return to India on a 'Vande Bharat' flight. However, he chose not to travel on the rescue mission flight and explains why. "The Vande Bharat schedule from Germany was to Delhi and as my wife is a doctor in Alappuzha, I had to travel to Kerala from Delhi in case I took that flight. The Delhi-Alappuzha trip would have been a big risk," he says.
So deciding to return to Singapore, Pillai booked a ticket on a regular flight from Frankfurt on June 14.
The lone traveller
While booking the ticket, Pillai was told that there would be 17 other passengers on the flight. However, it was only during boarding at Frankfurt that Pillai realized that he was the only traveller as all the others had cancelled their tickets.
"Initially, I was a bit tense but when I entered the aircraft, all my anxieties vanished," says Pillai.
"Any journey during these difficult times is unsafe. However, I was glad that being the only passenger, I did not have to worry about following social distancing norms. In fact, there were only 11 people on the aircraft – myself and the 10 crew members," he says.
The crew was very friendly and the journey was an unforgettable experience, Pillai adds. On arriving in Singapore, Pillai stayed in quarantine for 14 days.