I travelled from Delhi to Pune during the pandemic and here’s how it felt
The night before my flight, I couldn’t take my eyes off the PPE kit hanging behind the door. After staying indoors for more than two months, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that I was going to fly to another state amid a pandemic... let alone, the worst affected one in the country, Maharashtra.
After working from home for almost more than two months, I was unaware of the outside world. I hadn’t stepped out of my house and truly believed that not much had changed.
That day, my brother took an off from his office, just so that I don’t have to book an Ola or Uber to the airport. I wore my PPE kit, equipped myself with a sanitiser, and left for the airport. It was agonising to see the security guards outside the airport, standing wearing a PPE kit in Delhi’s hot weather.
I could feel my heart race faster with every second as I was inching towards my aircraft.
According to the guidelines, I took a print out of the luggage tag and pasted it on my belongings before leaving the house. But, on arrival at the airport, I was stunned to see not even a single person with a similar baggage tag.
As I proceeded towards the check-in counter, assuming that all the guidelines mentioned on the site are laid down to minimise contact between the passenger and the airport staff, there awaited an unpleasant surprise.
I was shocked to see that no precautionary measures were being taken by the staff or the airport authorities, apart from drawing demarcations to maintain social distancing.
I showed my ID and the boarding pass at the check-in counter from a distance, but the staff took both the documents from my hand, without any hesitation.
She then took a print out of my luggage tag and put it around the handle as usual. As I stood there watching her work, I wondered why were the guidelines laid down they weren’t going to be followed.
Unable to control my curiosity, I gathered myself to question her methods. To which she replied, “Sir, this is India, nobody follows any guidelines here. We can’t send a passenger home if he/she hasn’t taken a print out of the luggage tag.”
After receiving this answer, I was ready for more shockers ahead.
After passing the security check, I found all the shops, including the wine shop and food court, were open for customers. I avoided buying anything to avoid contact.
As soon as I reached my boarding gate, everybody was given a safety kit, which included a mask and a face shield. Boarding procedure was as usual, and everybody lined up according to their seat numbers. A sign of relief was when all the passengers went under a thermal check right before entering the aircraft.
When I entered the aircraft, all the cabinets were already left open by the cabin crew, so that passengers don’t touch it. All the magazines and pamphlets were removed from the seats except for the safety guideline. The middle row was kept empty to follow the norms of social distancing.
I was happy to see that people were continuously wearing the masks and the face shield properly. All the inflight services were not operational.
Upon landing, the cabin crew instructed all the passengers to be seated until further announcement. But, as soon as the aircraft came to a complete halt, like always in our part of the world, everyone got up and opened the cabins above them. It was as if the fear of coronavirus has suddenly disappeared from people’s minds. Nobody bothered to maintain any distance between them as they raced like earlier to be out of the aircraft asap.
It was an incredible experience with an amalgam of fear, anxiety, curiosity and excitement that will remain with me forever. I have possibly never felt so much despair in my life. Since I was travelling for work, I wasn’t required to quarantine. But two weeks on, there’s a relief that corona and I have managed to continue to keep the distance.