On July 10th, 2020 I took my first flight since the pandemic hit. You may be wondering, what is it really like flying during COVID-19? I flew from Paris, France (CDG) to Nice, France. It was a short flight on Air France, approximately an hour and a half.
If you are considering a flight, you probably have several questions such as, is it safe to fly on an airplane during Covid-19, how to prepare for a flight with the pandemic, and what’s it like flying on a plane during the pandemic? Today, I will be answering these questions and sharing my experience flying on Air France during the pandemic.
The last major shift we saw in the airline procedures was after 9/11. This major event shocked the world and the travel industry. New precautions were put into place to ensure safety measures were taken, and the Covid-19 pandemic is no different.
How to prepare before a flight with the pandemic
With safety being of the utmost importance, I took the necessary precautions to protect myself and others. I packed multiple masks (you cannot fly on the plane without a mask), hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes to wipe the seat.
Before the flight, I received an email from Air France stating all the precautions they were taking to ensure passenger safety during air travel. Most of the information on here is standard across all airlines, such as wearing a mask during flight, pack extra masks, and bring hand sanitizer. What I liked about the Air France email is it also stated what they were doing in between flights to clean the plane.
My expectations flying on an airplane during Covid 19
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect flying on a plane. On top of flying on a plane, I was flying out of CDG, which is one of the busiest airports in the world. I was definitely nervous since this was the first time I've flown since the pandemic hit. As someone who used to fly at least once a month before the pandemic hit, I was shocked by how nervous I was.
My biggest hope was that they provided a seat gap in between each person for space and that the plane was cleaned. The reality of flying during COVID-19 was a little different than what I expected.
The Reality of flying during Covid 19
When I arrived at the airport, as I predicted, it was virtually empty and took only 15 minutes to get through security and another 10 minutes to get to my gate. All the workers were wearing masks and gloves for safety measures. I also was wearing my mask during the security check, and washed and sanitized my hands after going through security. I don’t know for sure, but I’m predicting that the buckets used to put your bags in for security were not cleaned.
In the past, Air France was notorious for checking the dimensions and weight of your carry on suitcase combined with your handbag. Before Covid 19 hit, 100% of the time this happened. On both my flights, they did not check the weight or the dimensions of my carry on luggage. I’m not sure if this is by chance or they are giving leeway to passengers. Whatever the case may be, I still recommend you follow the weight and dimensions rules.
The next thing I noticed was many of the shops closed. While it was slightly disappointing these luxury shops were closed, what’s even more shocking is many restaurants and places to purchase food were also closed. This left passengers and myself with very limited options to get food. For me, I always buy water before the flight, but if you get hungry before you travel, I highly recommend packing your own food.
Boarding and de-boarding procedures :
I hoped that the boarding of the plane would be organized and not everyone would do a mad rush to board the plane. Unfortunately, this was not the case. As soon as they announced boarding would be happening, everyone rushed to get in line. On one hand, I understand why they did it, they wanted overhead space for the carry on bag. On the other hand, all I'm thinking is we are all getting on the same plane and we need to space out one Meter.
Overall, the boarding process was probably the most disappointing part of the entire flying experience during Covid 19. My biggest advice to Air France would be to figure out a way to organize the boarding process better.
On the flip side, Air France did a great job de-boarding the plane. They only allowed 2 rows to de-board at a time. This avoided clutter in the aisle and gave passengers ample time to collect their bags and de-board the plane row by row.
Food & Drink during the flight:
As I mentioned before Paris to Nice is a relatively short flight (a little over an hour and a half). With that being said, Air France was known for providing a small snack even on a short flight. With Covid 19, no food was served and only a few drink options were available on the flight. Once again, don’t rely on the airport or plane for food or drink. I do have an international flight scheduled and I’ll keep you posted on the flight details and my experience flying on an international Delta flight during Covid 19.
What I did not expect while flying during the coronavirus pandemic with Air France
One of the biggest things I did not expect while flying during the Covid 19 pandemic on Air France was that they recommended that you keep the overhead air conditioning off. I understand that they do this to prevent the air from flowing all over the plane. However, this is something I would have never thought of.
Another thing I did not expect while flying on Air France in 2020 was there was no spacing between seats. I’ve been reading online that other airlines such as Delta are spacing passengers out until Sept 2020, I was hoping Air France would do this but no such luck. I traveled on a 100% booked flight with no extra seats.
Finally the last thing I did not expect when flying during Covid 19, was that you can’t wear any mask. You are required to wear a disposable surgical mask or a N95 mask. These were the only masks permitted on the flight. AKA if you are expecting to fly with a cloth mask, that will not be possible, the airline will insist you change it out for a surgical mask. If you only have a cloth mask, they will provide a new surgical mask for you.
Updated! Flying International in 2021
I flew multiple times internationally during 2021. It's important to note that in order to travel to France from the USA you must be fully vaccinated and receive a covid 19 test 72 hours before your flight. In rare cases, you take another covid test 30 minutes before your flight. This only happened to me once. You must wear your surgical face mask the entire flight.
If you are flying to America from France and you are a USA citizen you will need to do a covid test 72 hours before your flight. If you do not have French health insurance you must pay 25 Euros for a Covid 19 test. You must wear your face mask the entire flight.
Both flights were relatively empty. I was lucky enough to get an entire row and lay down the flight and sleep.
** Important Update as of August 10, 2021 you must present your health pass (vaccine pass) in cafes, museums, and other shops. As of right now it's okay if you have the American vaccine pass, but I read online that some places are requiring you to go to the pharmacy and get a translated one to France. I will continue to update you as I get more news on this matter.
I will continue to update this section as more information is available on this topic. Safe travels!
Recap on what is is like flying during Covid 19
Overall, I was pleased with the precautions Air France took to ensure passenger safety during the flight. While, there are areas of opportunity, as mentioned above, overall it was a painless experience.
In short, when flying on a plane during the Covid 19 pandemic you can expect to wear a mask, many shops and restaurants to be closed, security will go quickly as boarding and de-boarding will take longer than expected. If you are flying back to back, I recommend having more than normal time between flights. I would love to hear in the comments have you flown on a plane since the pandemic hit? What was your experience flying during Covid 19?
Sincerely Petite in Paris,