A Concerned Airplane Traveller During COVID-19.

Mariana Baião Santos

Mariana Baião Santos

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Picture credit @jorge_views

At the airport during Covid time.

They called my name, my packed up toast was ready. A fogged plastic container is handed to me, I peer in, holding it above my head just to make sure that it was actually a toast. Before I am certain, the lady at the counter intervenes, ‘Yes, it’s a toast’. I grin and agree, ‘Right…’.

I sit down, remove my mask, gasp for air and open my container. Where I find some half grilled pieces of bread, somehow only toasted on one side and some bits of ham hanging from it, (just fyi I’m vegetarian.) This was just sad.

This is not something I would usually order, but I lacked choices. All stores were closed, most of the cafés are temporarily shut, even the lounges have not opened yet. The airport has turned into a small town train station, where passengers pace slowly, as if they had all the time in the world, the only place you can eat is a trashy grab and go counter and the announcements only remind you of what a time we are living in.

I miss the business people who stride by the gates as if this is the 100th time, who’ll sigh at you if you have no security check tactic plan and ask if you still need to take your jacket off. I miss the smell of horrid airport coffee. I miss browsing the duty free although I have no intention of giving them a dime, and laugh at how inflated the prices are. I even miss the families who decide to travel with their five children, keep running around them through the airport and probably wonder why have they done this in the first place. 

As I unhappily chew through my toast, I choke on some crumbles of the indecently grilled bread and cough. Three different people suddenly turn straight to me, and I don’t know how have I survived to tell the story, as their eyes pierced into me, roasting me slowly. Two minutes later, a peopleless circle had formed around my table. 

Later, when I am walking to the gate, I find a maskless woman. People ask her to comprise with the norms but she doesn’t flinch. Airport security intervenes and she puts her masks on with disregard. But who are these people, too self-absorbed to care only about their own comfort? Not to comply with rules for the safety and wellness of others, this is an act of pure selfishness. Times of crisis show what people are made of.

Never had I seen such a swift airplane boarding. Passengers were all boarded and seated in less than thirty minutes. Flight attendants kept going in and out asking if there was still anyone missing, as they were surprised, as was I, of how few people were coming in. No more than a hundred people were on this flight. Business class was a lifeless desert, if you stared at it long enough you would see the traditional ball of twigs rambling through the middle seat aisle followed by a Western theme. 

The free snack has turned into a Ryanair cart of pre-packet expensive food. Not even water could you get for free, and this was a National Airline, not low-cost. 

All the fun of flying has been lost. The childhood excitement of waking up at dawn, being forced into comfortable clothes and running for the airport while constantly checking the time has been swapped for the constant fear hidden behind masks and the compulsiveness of washing hands and disinfecting everything you are about to touch. We have all turned into Naomi Campbell flying long haul, minus the first class service and private minibar. 

So, all that I ask is: 

Dear Covid, when will you let us enjoy the adrenaline of being high above where any human should go, stop making us fearful of discovering our homely earth and pay for the only thing that can actually make us richer?

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