That’s a question I’ve been getting a lot, so I figured it is worthy of a post.
I work for an airline at Toronto Pearson Airport. Like a proper frontline worker! I check people in, board passengers, and yes, I am that voice calling your name if you are late for your flight. “Mr. Late, this is your final boarding call”.
Even though people still manage to do it, it’s hard being late for a flight these days. Not much traffic, and most of the times there are no line-ups at check-in or security. The problem lies on The Assumption. The airport is, most of the day and most days, empty. BUT then there are the odd times – or should I say the right times, such as the two-hours window before all flights leave – where you’ll face a huge queue (and then blame the world when the doors of the aircraft close right on your face).
For a reason that I can’t explain too well, the majority of international flights leave at exactly the same hour. Perhaps that helps with staffing, perhaps it’s due to the turn-around window, perhaps it’s all about the existing slots. Or maybe it’s just a conspiracy against late-shows. The airport might be completely empty before 7AM and between 11AM and 3PM, but – specially weekends – there are tons of 9 or 10AM departures, and a few Dreamliners or other wide bodies (meaning aircrafts with 200+ seats) leaving around 6PM. And most airlines are operating on a very reduced staff. No need to be a mathematician to figure out what’s will this sum result in.
So, if you are traveling during these crazy times: be aware, and give yourself enough time. Even if you are a rebel that dont follow the governmental guidelines for Covid-19, you should follow your airline recommendations of being at the airport 2 hours before departure. Yes, even if it’s a domestic flight. Most international flights will close the check-in one hour before departure, while the domestic cut off is 45 min. It’s a 15 minutes difference only, so no more thinking there’s a huge difference between both. If you are going to the USA you will clear customs before heading to your gate. Não bobeia!
Now if you are just curious and didn’t need the above lesson… yeap, the airport is dead. Most of the day you’ll only see employees wondering around. There aren’t many flights – you can see the whole day schedule in just one side of the double board – and most are operating quite empty. Some more than others, obviously, but often I push back a flight with less than 20 people in it! These days a Dreamliner aircraft that has 320 seats, from Toronto to Calgary, left with 40 passengers only. So yeah, you can easily have a full row for yourself.
On Saturdays the airport get busy with people flying internationally, to visit family or whatever essential reason they have. Yes, some people are also just going on vacation. Don’t judge! Wouldn’t you isolate in a Caribbean villa if you could? You can do it safely: in Barbados, for example, visitors are given a test at the airport, and they have to quarantine until the result come negative. Then you can go out and explore the island. I would love that.
But I was saying about the airport…
At YYZ, only passengers are allowed to enter the premises. Not all entrance doors are operating and there’s a security agent at the ones that are, just to check if you have a valid reason to come in. If the passenger cant speak English and absolutely need assistance, then one person can accompany him/her. Often some extra friends and family sneak-in, and some employees can get quite upset. They’re like the airport Karens, but in a way they are just trying to feel safe. Don’t judge!
Everyface has to wear a mask at all times. There are the anti-maskers, that will try to lecture you in the conspiracy theories they found on the dark web – but they mostly comply when they are told they cant fly without it. And then there are the complete opposites that will wear not only the mask, but also the face-shield and the full white plastic jumpsuit that covers their clothes as well (very popular in China bound flights). I’ve seen people protecting their hair, which resonated well with me. I avoid touching my face, but I often touch my hair (doing pony-tails, etc). And then I come home and put my head in my pillow! Urgh. Im disgusting.
When I got back to work, in November, I first was a little disappointed with the safety measures. The airport cleaners are not going crazy cleaning everything right after someone touches – it’s almost like business as usual from my point of view (although I’m sure there must be extra cleaning measures). I touch photo IDs, credit cards and suitcases way more than I wish. In our team room we can remove the mask, and at first I said I would still keep it on. But now I don’t, because wearing a mask for 8 hours straight sucks. Im often desperate to get to my car so I can take that thing out of my face.
However, little by little I started feeling safer. Most agents clean the shared computers and other equipment before use, and so do I. I try to sanitize my hands every time I touch something from someone else. My poor skin is cracking like I work gloveless at a chemical facility.
Every passenger will get their temperature checked at security check point.
Also at the airport they also have this UV machine to sanitize your phone, pen, radio, and whatever really you want to put in there… I try using it at least once every shift.
Some agents in my team have gotten the dreading new coronavirus, but it doesn’t seem that they got it at the airport. Everybody that worked close to them is notified, but none have gotten infected as a result of this. Furthermore, we often get calls to advise that a flight that I have worked on (boarding all passengers) had a confirmed case. It’s a little scary, but nothing ever comes out of it.
So if you came to this post looking for answers while deciding if you should travel or not, I say: just do it. You can fly safe, and the chances that you’ll get infected at the airport or in-flight are small if you are taking the proper health measures. I think the biggest problem is when you are at your destination: will you be safe there? Do you have millions of friends and family to visit? Do you want to just say F It All and go to parties, bars, etc? THAT’s when you get infected and put others at risk. AND now you need a negative test to come back to Canada. What will happen if that test comes positive? Add at least another 2 weeks to your time off of work.
I’ll finish this post with a message to our prime minister: Mr. Trudeau, I used to like you and defend you. Nowadays, I can’t say you’d have my vote. What you are doing to the airline/travel industry is unreasonable and concerning. This country is made of immigrants who have families and business to attend all over the world. If some are not following the Quarantine Act and being the reason for spreading the virus, they should be charged. Travelers are not at fault. If they are willing to take several quite invasive nasal tests and will be following the two-weeks isolating at home rules, that is because traveling is either essential or possible for them. Focus on the vaccine and enforcement of rules, but please don’t create any extra impediments! We have seen politicians, hospital CEOs and even a member of the vaccination task force going on vacation. Stop the hypocrisy and remember that one human right that should be above all: the right of mobility.
“Don’t count the days. Make the days count” Muhammad Ali
Be safe and enjoy your trip,