Travelling in a pandemic sounds like a nightmare.
Whether it is stories about chaotic crowds or losing yourself in a whirlwind of updated rules every day, it may seem like there’s some seriously unnecessary stress just to go abroad. Yet, is it really that bad?
This author recently had the experience to travel from Malta to Italy and back. The following story is the personal experience of how travelling through a pandemic really is.
Overall, it tends to be the lead-up to your arrival at the airport that is the most stressful. The worries over whether you have the right documents or whether the airport will be crowded and uncontrolled, will always be in the back of your mind.
Departing From Malta
Stepping foot in Malta International Airport quickly helped dispel many of the fears. People generally respected wearing their masks (though as always, the occasional peeping nose was visible).
There was also clear enforcement of temperature checks and those not wearing a mask were quickly flagged down by airport staff to put one on.
That said, social distancing was rarely respected in queues and the departures lounge was so thoroughly packed you wouldn’t even know that there was a pandemic raging across the world were it not for the masks.
Unfortunately, most of the sanitisers posted around the airport were not actually filled with anything.
We all tried to test as many of the sanitiser stands as we could around the Departures Lounge, finding that only the sanitisers at the entrance to the airport and the bathrooms were functioning at the time.
Something that did come as a surprise was the fact that the vaccine certificates were not checked in the slightest other than attendants briefly checking that you had one – there was no verification.
Other than that, there was no real difference between your normal Check-In for a flight at all.
Arriving at your destination
Now, of course, it is definitely important to highlight that every country (and even every airport) will be different.
Whether it is differences in COVID-19 rules and restrictions or even just more attentive (or negligent) staff at the airport, your experience will most likely be different from ours.
In this case, we travelled to Naples International Airport in Italy. Arriving at the airport, passengers were asked to exit the plane row by row in order to control how many people are entering the awaiting buses at a time.
Additionally, each bus had a limited capacity of around twenty people offering plenty of space between each individual and group travelling together.
Other than that, there was otherwise nothing at all different when it came to collecting your baggage and leaving the airport.
Granted, announcements on the speaker did state that only one person from your group was allowed to stay inside the airport to collect the baggage – however, no one really actually seemed to acknowledge that rule. Staff were also not present to enforce it.
The journey back home
After you’ve spent your time eating, drinking, relaxing and so on, you might be wondering what your experience heading back to Malta will be.
Firstly, make sure that you have updated your Locator Forms, as if not you will go through a very unnecessary hassle. Needless to say, your vaccine certificates or PCR tests are very important too.
At Naples Airport, there was clear social distancing, lots of sanitiser stands and even vending machines at the entrances to the airport offering bottles of sanitiser and masks.
However, there was a bizarre encounter where the staff checking us in had no idea what the EU Vaccine Certificates or the PCL forms were and had to call the manager to explain what the process for checking in passengers was to other EU countries.
A weirdly sci-fi aspect of heading towards security meanwhile were these large archways you step through that are constantly spraying a mist of sanitiser upon everyone that passes through it.
Make sure you close your eyes and don’t breathe in unless you want to choke on sanitiser while going through security checks.
As you are queuing to embark onto your plane, social distancing is maintained while airport staff checks your paperwork to ensure that you have the right dates on everything. Yet once more, there is little else done with your documents other than this.
Arriving in Malta
Arriving in Malta is a huge difference from departing. While departures at the airport are massive, arrivals are like a ghost town.
We arrived in Malta at roughly the same time we had departed and in the hour that we spent around the airport, not a single flight other than ours arrived.
It did have its advantages, such as getting your luggage almost instantly, but it was surreal to see an airport so quiet. It gave many flashbacks to the beginning of the pandemic when lockdowns left everywhere a virtual ghost town in Malta.
This time, sanitisers were fully working and stocked throughout the walk towards baggage claim. Those who had not filled in their documents were quickly stopped by the Health Department and pulled aside to fill in Locator Forms.
Exiting baggage claim, you are directed towards a sprawling series of booths that have been set up by the Health Department.
With quick and efficient direction by Health Department officials, you are brought to a desk where an official thoroughly checks each and every document you have. It is here that the expectations of how the vaccine certificates are meant to work was actually seen.
Seeing the thorough process that was taken into verifying your documents and noting down each arrival for track and tracing did give the feeling that Malta has stepped up their game when it came to tackling the situation of chaotic airport arrivals.
This was a far cry from the chaotic scenes we’ve seen and read about when the airports first opened and tourists began flocking to Malta.
While overall, the process of travelling in a pandemic may seem daunting and stressful, it really is only adding a few more small steps to fully enjoy your getaway. That said, social distancing still needs improvement in the airport (and pretty much the rest of Malta to be fair).
While there is always going to be that little bit of caution and wariness of COVID-19 in the back of your head, it isn’t that different from walking around Malta.
What have your travel experiences been like?