After six months of sitting put, I got on my first plane and flew across the country. As expected, it was weird. Come along as I recap my trip from Vancouver to Quebec City and get my take on what it’s like to fly across Canada during the pandemic.
My Last Flight
Back in March 2020, a week before North America essentially shut down, I was in Las Vegas. For many there, coronavirus was still very much “China’s problem.” From Fox News playing on the screens in the airport to the busy casino floor, it was clear that the US was unprepared and in denial for what was to come.
To an extent, I was too.
Despite Covid-19 very much in full swing, I went to a Las Vegas Golden Knights game, drove Dune Buggies in the desert, and played blackjack. Back home, things were starting to escalate.
I got a text message from Erin. She was concerned about me flying. I replied saying that airports are going to be ready with medical screening on arrival. I reminded her of the temperature and health checks we went through in Asia years ago and that the same would be in place when I got home. It wasn’t.
Even more surprisingly, six months later, on my first flight across Canada, the safety measures still aren’t there.
The biggest difference with flying across Canada during the pandemic and six months prior is wearing a mask for the duration of the flight. In reality, though, I wore a mask from the moment I got in my Uber in Vancouver to the moment I stepped out of one on the other end in Quebec City.
There is a lot of fuss made of this but I can say that if you have a comfortable mask, this is not a big deal. After much of trial and error, I landed on Herschel masks and can recommend for long flights. Don’t be a Karren, put one on.
Back at the airport in Vancouver, things were eerily quiet. This, of course, isn’t a bad thing. There was little to no line at check-in and security was a breeze. The only thing different was a temperature check before passing through.
Seats throughout the airport are blocked off to encourage social distancing. This was negated, however, by the lines during boarding. As best as Air Canada tries, keeping distance while boarding 250 people is a tough ask. I watched from a distance while agents did their best herding masked cats.
What’s it Like Onboard Air Canada?
Once at my seat, I settled in for the four hour trip to Toronto. With daily reports of Covid-19 cases on flights in and out of YVR, you can tell people are a bit on edge. The slightest cough or clearing of the throat brings disapproving eyes.
I tried to focus on getting some sleep as my first leg was a redeye. I put in my noise-cancelling headphones and blocked out the coughs and sneezes around me. Unfortunately, no technology could block out the man snoring behind me. I looked back to see his mask around his chin and mouth gaping.
To the credit of the flight attendants, they woke him up several times to ask him to pull his mask up.
This was about the extent of the service on this flight. On Air Canada, kits with hand sanitizer, gloves, water, wet naps, and pretzels are at your seat when boarding. This is all part of their CleanCare+ initiative. This did make me feel more comfortable and I was able to sleep the duration of the flight, snores and all.
If YVR is eerily quiet, Toronto Pearson is hauntingly dead. As I made my way through the terminal I passed by shuttered store after shuttered store. Thinking back six months prior when I was last through, these same halls were buzzing with activity. Now, crickets.
Thankfully, Air Canada just opened their lounge at Pearson so I was able to hide away for a few hours in there. Again, to Air Canada’s credit, they have done a great job making the area pandemic friendly. Seats are spaced out, masks are mandatory in between, and meal service is to your seats.
For a full review of what the new lounge set up is like during the pandemic, stay tuned.
My second flight was to Quebec City and was much of the same, albeit much shorter and less crowded. This certainly made for a less stressful experience. The less elbow-rubbing at 35,000 feet the better, pandemic or not.
Getting into Quebec, a province that was hit hard by the pandemic, was surprisingly relaxing. Much like the last two airports, it seemed like I was on one of the only flights of the day. I was surprised that there was no health screening on arrival. I would think this is a good place to flag anyone that is unwell but it’s possible this is reserved for international flights.
Would I Fly Across Canada Again?
Despite the minor discomfort of smelling my hot breath for 14-hours straight, flying across Canada during the pandemic is not that bad.
I am by no means eager to do this again tomorrow, however, given the precautions and safety measures, I would fly across Canada again. While watching the Toronto skyline disappear into the clouds below I remembered just how much I missed flying, coughs and all.
What say you?
Thoughts on what it’s like to fly across Canada during the pandemic?
Let’s hear it in the comments below!
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