RKS Travel: How Has COVID Changed Air Travel?

  1. Getting to and From the Airport

In Toronto little has changed although airport taxis and limousines now have protective plexi-glass screens separating you from the driver. Going to and from the three Greek airports I passed through there were no screens in taxis/limos taking you to and from the airport.

  • Seats Need to be Booked Before Check-In

Of the 5 September flights I was on each was sold out. However there was ample seat selection to choose upon booking our 3 Greek flights. Two flights I took in Greece were mostly on short turbo prop flights with seating two and two. Air Canada from Toronto to Athens was a different story. I booked a month or so before those flights and don’t recall being given the option by my points provider to choose a seat which was not disconcerting because pre-COVID you checked in 24 hours prior to flying and there were plenty of seats available. This time checking in for 2, 24 hours prior to departure on a huge plane there were only 3 seats available. I sat in the last row by the galley and the WC graced by line-ups and noisy vacuum flushes for nine hours. It would seem many people were spooked by flights being oversold they booked a seat just to ensure they would not be bumped in an oversold situation or perhaps I was penalized for booking with points? If you don’t want to be marooned like me choose your seat upon booking despite the annoying nickel and dime approach of airlines to charge for anything they can possibly charge for. They are not charging to use the toilets yet. Ryanair tried that a few years ago and suffered withering public criticism. On my return flight from Athens to Toronto I paid close to $100 for an aisle seat.

  • There May Be Delays

For the three internal flights in Greece two were “rescheduled” weeks before departure. Due to labour shortages for security staff, baggage handlers and customs officials expect possible delays at major airports. Further delays may be expected for the airplane to access the runway and connect to a deplaning gate. You may experience a delay in exiting the airplane particularly at Toronto Pearson Airport as connecting passengers are whisked off the plane with priority in groups with a wait between each “release” so customs was overly swamped. I had over a 40-minute wait in Toronto to leave the plane.

  • Stick to Carry on Baggage

If you have the option as I did for my September flights to survive a trip out of a carry-on bag you just, for the time being, may wish to restrict yourself to a carry-on bag. Toronto Pearson Airport had horrible stories of thousands of checked in bags sitting unclaimed so Toronto passengers were paranoid about checking in their bags. The airlines nickel and dime passengers in many instances to grab revenue for processing check in bags yet there are so many carry-ons, many not policed for permissible dimensions, there is no place to put them on the airplane so free check in may be offered at the gate. The offer of free check in on my Toronto Athens flight was offered to the mirth of waiting passengers failing sufficient passenger take up mandatory check in was required!

  • Major Airports are Crammed

Stir crazy and formerly virus terrified passengers are crawling out of their shells. Airports and airplanes are crammed. Lineups may be the norm for airport shops and restaurants. I had an hour wait at Toronto Pearson Airport to access Plaza Premium Lounge. Given the poor quality of food and beverage that was a big mistake. Mandatory masks are no longer required in many airports or on airplanes.

  • Arriving Early for Your Flight?

Suffering from Toronto Pearson Airport horror stories we arrived three and a half hours prior to our flight. In and through security without any wait. In Greece arrival in a regular time frame was fine. With the resolving of labour shortages normalcy of arrival time at airports if not already in place may surface again. Probably best to check the relevant airport website to determine appropriate arrival to airport time.

  • Decreased Legroom?

On my last transcontinental flight in 2019 on Air Canada from Paris to Toronto I seem to recall having four inches between my knees and the forward seat. My knees were touching the seat ahead of me on my September Air Canada Toronto-Athens flight. Could it be that some airlines financially pummelled by COVID in an attempt to recoup revenue have repositioned seats to fit more passengers in?

In summation flying has evolved into a most unpleasant experience and it is often an evil that has to be suffered. As the air travel world normalizes it is hoped the aggravation subsides. If you are caught in a web of unpleasant experiences chances are you can little to alleviate them so just accept and avoid stressing yourself.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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