Until July I hadn’t left my neighborhood in Brooklyn and less than 2 square miles around it. Since understanding the severity of the Covid pandemic, I was afraid to fly, seeing airplanes as petri-dishes. I flew direct from Milan’s Malpensa airport to NYC’s JFK on March 2nd and soon became unsure of when I would see my partner, Michele, as both of our nations shut their borders. Weeks turned into months. Italy was on full blown lockdown and NYC the same. Markers like my birthday passed without us seeing each other. When we were able to figure out a solution, the next stage left me anxious about the flight. There were no direct flights to Milan and I would have to fly into Rome with a domestic connecting flight.
I AM NOT ADVOCATING FOR LONG HAUL FLIGHTS, UNLESS NECESSARY RIGHT NOW.
But, here‘s my experience and a helpful how to fly during the Covid pandemic. I’m a person that’s an easy flier. I fall asleep before the plane even takes off; I like taking overnight flights, getting to my destination rested and ready to start the day. On this 8.5 hour flight from JFK to Rome’s Fiumicino, I slept for maybe 2-3 hrs. Let me take you through my journey.
I love a look. Friends who’d taken shorter domestic flights were recommending clothes that you’d throw out later. I didn’t want to use a “hard to wash” travel blanket, or even my favorite Scaglione cashmere duster. Because I knew I’d be using wipes and sprays I wanted something I could easily wipe down. When I saw the Spring LoveShackFancy nylon track suit, I knew I found it. It had a hood that I wore up for much of the trip, ample pockets and was cute and nylon. Upon landing in Milan, per recommendation of How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch, I changed in the airport restroom into a fresh look to great Michele and put my airplane clothes into a reusable plastic bag. When I got to our apartment, they immediately went into the washing machine.
Everyone at all 3 airports I visited was in a mask. In fact I saw an airport police officer in Rome insist a passenger put on a mask. I wore a hospital grade mask for the duration of the flight with my SCAGLIONE mask over it. My friend Brandon bought an extra face shield before he made a LA to New York flight recently, and gave it to me. I had a mask protecting others from me, face shield protecting me from others — I felt good. Maybe I wouldn’t wear the face shield for a flight under 4 hours, but it gave me peace of mind for a long haul. Boarding my plane, a few of us had them on.
My family dropped me off and didn’t really come in. My mom usually hugs me at security. But there wasn’t really that this time around. They really prefer those that aren’t traveling to not even step foot inside the terminal.
JFK was like a ghost town. There were barely any cars dropping travelers off. Protective shields separated customers from desk agents. Pre-check status isn’t really recognized as there’s hardly anyone flying. Stores, food and newsstands were open — though people were hardly in the retail stores. The passengers on my flight (operating at seemingly 1/2 capacity) were primarily made up of European nationals or dual passport holders returning to Italy. I was online behind one American couple heading to Greece and flying through Italy; Greece’s borders are open for American holiday-makers.
Rome Fiumicino was considerably more lively with Italians heading on holiday. Like JFK, seats were set up in social distancing efforts with every other one blocked off. I had a 3-hour layover (we booked intentionally just in case I had problems with border patrol). I had a cappuccino and did work — it was strange how quickly we slip into the same habits. At this point my masks were on but not my face shield. Malpensa was kind of dark and quiet — more of a JFK vibe, as compared to Rome’s airport; but that’s standard.
Before approaching the check-in at JFK, they took my temperature and wrote it down on my documents. When boarding the plane, they asked to see this. Upon landing in Rome they took my temperature and again upon landing in Milan. Since I’ve been in Italy supermarkets, restaurants, most establishments check your temperature upon entering.
The boarding process was smooth and organized from the back as to prevent too many people from passing each other. The airplane was a “Boeing 777-200.” No dreamliners and mega airbuses this time around. Each side of the plane had a pair of seats with the middle aisle having a set of four. I mostly saw families in the middle set of seats while single travelers were given window seats with empty seats next to them. As soon as I boarded I wiped down my seat, head & arm rests, screens, window and remote with antibacterial wipes. I saw many other people doing the same. I then turned on the overhead air vent. When I spoke to a Delta communications person about flight safety, she detailed this being an important part in the air filtration system during a flight. This was a big change for me as I usually turn it off: I’m always freezing on flights! I settled in and remain pretty unbothered for the duration of the flight. I watched a few movies and tried to sleep. Breathing with a face mask for 8 hours, easy. Sleeping with a face shield, hard! There’s just no way to get cozy. I went to the restroom 3 or 4 times. It always looked fresh cleaned when I did. Eating was the only time I slightly raised my mask. I used my hand sanitizer quite a bit but I didn’t use the pocket behind the seat. My second domestic flight within Italy was also operating with every other seat open. It was smaller and I was in the window seat while a gentleman was in the aisle.
I packed food for my flight (Luna bars) and was surprised that Alitalia served food! There wasn’t options as usual. It was a cheese ravioli – not good, bread and butter, a packet of taralli, tiramisu and two water bottles (I usually like flying Air France and Alitalia for the bread and wine options). In the morning, there was a brioche and two bottles of water again.
I’m currently in Italy, staying home with my partner. All and all it was a relatively easy flight and well worth it to get to him. I feel good, we were monitoring my temperate and as of writing this, I completed my two weeks of self-quarantine!
Not a lot of places are accepting Americans right now but if you’re considering say responsibly traveling to those places that are and even around the US, I hope this was helpful how to. Every airline is different. My experience would have been have been completely different were it one of the airlines that we’re operating at full capacity!
Check out my video on these tips on IGTV.
Are you thinking about traveling before summer’s end? How comfortable are you flying during the Covid pandemic?