Flying During COVID-19, What It's Really Like

A trip up to Brisbane to pick up a car to drive back home to Newcastle left me with mixed feelings. A part of me was excited, this was going to be my first flight since COVID started and I was curious to see what has changed and a part of me felt nervous but I thought it would be okay, surely strict measures would be in place, especially at the airport and on the plane itself; I was wrong.

Mum and I arrived to Newcastle Airport and were surprised to see people walking around with no masks. We parked the car, put on our masks, sanitised our hands at the station which was placed at the entrance and headed inside the airport, we had already checked in online so went straight through to the bag scanning.

This process has changed a little, the trays are no longer stacked but are underneath this machine where you grab one out and place your bag inside and then push it along the rollers for it to be scanned, you are asked to stand on this platform where some machine scans your body, i'm assuming to see whether you have anything on you that shouldn't be there. You grab your bag and your tray is wiped over by staff and placed underneath with the rest of the trays.

And, well, that's it really. We found ourselves a seat at the departures lounge and waited for our plane. Not once did we have our temperature checked or asked any questions regarding where we have been or what our purpose for travel is. We did fill out the QLD Declaration Pass online which outlines those details but Newcastle Airport didn't seem concerned at all.

The departures lounge had hand sanitising stations set up throughout and the tables and chairs were spaced apart but the majority of people not wearing masks was concerning, but perhaps they will be required to wear one just before we board the plane, surely?

The departures lounge started to quickly fill up, our flight from Newcastle to Brisbane with Jetstar was the only flight scheduled to leave that night. The Jetstar staff started preparing themselves at the boarding gate and when it was announced that boarding is now ready to commence, people started queueing, there was no direction or instruction about maintaining social distancing at all.

At the boarding gate bags were not weighed and they scanned your boarding pass. Near the boarding desk was a bucket of masks packed in single sandwich bags, these were OPTIONAL to take, oh and hand sanitising before boarding the plane was optional too, now I was starting to worry.

Boarding the plane we sat in our allocated seats as written on our boarding pass, mum had the window and I was in the middle, we brought our own sanitising wipes to wipe everything over just to be sure. As I was settling in, a random person sat next to me in the aisle seat, I was confused, I would have thought for sure that spacing measures would have taken place on the plane, I was relieved however that they were wearing a mask.

As more and more, and even more people started piling onto the plane it became clear to me that social distancing was not a priority. One man went to sit in an empty row after discovering that his allocated seat was in between two large passengers, the staff told him that he needed to be seated in his allocated seat, this poor man was understandably upset and spent the entire flight shoulder to shoulder with two random passengers.

Once the cabin doors closed I had a look around, there was a large number of completely empty rows. Many of these passengers could have been spaced out instead of sitting side by side. You have no idea where they have been after all.

All up I would say about 20% of the passengers were wearing masks and only a couple of the flight attendants were. Food and drinks were not available to purchase on the flight, only if you had prepaid for it.

The plane had landed into Brisbane, the seat belt signed turned off and you guessed it, everybody stood up out of their seats to get their bag and just stood in the aisle, why is everybody always in a rush to get to nowhere? These people were standing shoulder to shoulder, face to face, waiting to depart the plane, they were standing there for 10 mins! There was no direction or announcement from the cabin crew asking people to stay seated, no orderly manner for people to depart row by row, it was every man for themselves pushing passed.

Entering Brisbane terminal we queued up to get our QLD Declaration Passes checked, again at this point masks were optional and no temp checks were taken or recorded. An officer asks to see your declaration and proof of address, asks you questions including "have you been tested positive for COVID", "have you visited any COVID hotspots in the last 14 days", "have you come into contact with a COVID positive person in the last 14 days" etc. You simply answer yes or no and they just take your word for it. You could lie and they wouldn't have the slightest clue, that is of course until cases start popping up, but it's a little too late isn't it?