Travelling in the transition period from the COVID19 lockdown to new normal


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Truth be told, travelling is still not the same as before the Covid19 lockdown. It is too early to tell exactly what the new normal for travelling will be like, how long the transition period will be, whether it will be uniform throughout the world or one day get close to the old normal. In the mean time it might be worthwhile gathering and sharing experiences to become familiar with the trends, as they develope.

At the end, I posted a short summary. Also there are bolded titles to make skimming easy.

Travelling by plane within Europe shortly after the COVID19 lockdown
Germany and Denmark began to open up gradually, internally first and in the middle of June more border traffic became possible. Last weekend, June 19th to 21st, I used the airports in Copenhagen (CPH), Denmark, and Frankfurt (FRA), Germany for the first time since the reopening for ordinary traffic. Below are some observations:

Arriving at the airport and the mask controller
CPH Friday June 19, 2020 at around 8:30 a.m.: Not many people were on the train to the last destination on the metro line. Where were the others?

When entering the airport, I had to put a mask on. I already knew that, there were signs and to make sure I did, there was a "mask minder" sitting on some stairs just ahead of the critical zone. He like all other employees was not wearing a mask, but a hat with a transparent screen. Pilots and their crew were of course dressed according to the "international standard", but I thought the screens were more human. I told the mask minder, I had bought one with orange stripes and even had a cap of the same colour in case of need. He was happy, color was not a problem as along as there was a mask. I had in fact also brought along a classical surgical, but it is flimsy and I had opted for a more sturdy dust mask from a hardware store.

Departure area and security, less shopping activity, more spacing between seating
At the departure screen there were listed about 70 planes - covering the whole day until 21:20. That is not much! At security there are usually many busy lines and a waiting time of 5-8-12 minutes. That morning there were two lines with a handful of people in each. I have never seen it that empty, except once when I came as the very first when they opened shortly after 4:00 a.m. When going through, I noticed a new scanner, or is it just the US model that reached Europe? One has to stand with raised hands, feets place in marked areas, stand still, and then turn around 360. As I exited, I was asked to keep the mask on but just lift and turn it around, so they could see it was empty. The photo showed several places, like knees, an elbow, an areas around the waist. I did not think I had anything, but they explained it could be due to a crease in the clothes, or heat while I proposed magnesium supplements to explain the knees :-) Jokes are perhaps not welcome, and I was picked for some closer hand inspections by the security wearing the transparent screen and a pair of blue laboratory gloves. While this was happening there was a smell of alcohol. On the other side a security was spraying to make a pretence of disinfecting a luggage tray, or was it an item caught for inspection. I watched him to see if he was earnest in his efforts, but this I could not confirm. It seemed like something he had to do once in a while, but not so often, he got a sniffing effect and become high.

In the duty free-area, it was slow business and no line as usual in front of the cashiers. Further it turned out many other shops were still closed, with no light or people in the fashion shops. Darkness and shadows prevailed, as if it was a provincial airport, or a town mall in recession.

Even if there were few departures, people filled up. Two meter distance becomes a long line with even 50 people among whom some preferred more than two meters. At the waiting area one was only allowed to use every other chair.

In the plane "antifreeze" napkins for hygiene
In the plane, we sat next to each other as usual. A few had secured themselves with blue lab gloves, and I sat next to one of those. We received a package with a napkin moist with disinfectant. It was at least twice the size of the small square ones one could usually get on Air France flights. The instruction explained how to use the napkin and what to be aware of. One has to keep using the tissues, maintaining the hands moist for 60 seconds, but only use it in a well ventilated place - like in an airplane cabin, where most ventilators are turned off :-) - as the "antifreeze" can act like a solvent, affect the brain and is flammable. It appeared to me that several did not bother to use it, but put the item in their bag for later use, or simply left it behind.

Safety procedures: If you need the oxygen mask take off the other mask first!
During the safety procedures, they told us about the oxygen masks and added that in case they fell out, and we needed them, we would have to remove our other mask first. Good to know :-). Another detail was that we were by law required to keep out safety belt fastened at all times when seated. Maybe this is old news, but I only got the message now. In an increasingly unstable atmosphere this is probably good advice anyway

No inflight magazine yet - just the security sheet
Contrary to previous trips with Lufthansa there was no snack, except for business class. For the rest there was half a liter of water. In front of the seat there was no inflight magazines, only the minimal plastic security sheet. There was also no inflight sales, but I noticed that business class was given a small sheet that looked like a price list. After a few seconds and no interest, they were collected and disposed of.

A changed world for passengers and crew - who is behind the mask?
The journey itself was uneventful. I was sitting behind the row next to the emergency exit and next to the aisle. At take off and landing one of the crew was seated facing the passengers next to the exit. As we were approaching, I looked in the direction of the crew member and noticed a pair of eyes already looking at me. For a tiny fraction of a second we explored each other, as if who is there behind the mask? I then wondered what it might be like to have entered a career that includes going to places, seeing things, interacting with lots and lots of people, perhaps having been chosen for a friendly facial appearance and then suddenly finding oneself hidden behind a mask having to reduce contact with everyone and only knowing others as mask covered objects, while at the same time many in the same profession have been sent home or layed off. It is probably not easy.

Frankfurt airport in limbo
When I arrived in Frankfurt there was some time to explore the arrival area. As I exited, I noticed the luggage conveyors were all still, the area had only the essential lights that allowed for passing by on the side, as if nothing had happened all morning. When I came out of the security area I soon noticed there were loud speeches and whistles on the floor above. I wondered what happening was taking place. Was it Black Lives Matter, some climate activists like Extinction Rebellion, immigrants like in France, or a loud company that was about to go for some major travelling and fun time and needed the last instructions and admonitions before departure? None of that, it was loud but measured speech, different speakers, no party, no riot. I went up to find out it was Lufthansa staff discussing their future, the agreement between Lufthansa and the German state, that should secure Lufthansa did not contain the expectation that the company would guarantee the jobs of the staff. From an ordinary business point of view, I can easily understand that, but then again, I could also see the situation of the staff.

Returning - fewer self check-in counters available
On the return the picture was in many ways similar, but there was a little more life at the departure. It was Frankfurt after all! Police and security were addressing and reprimanding people who had no masks. Two out of three of the self check in desks had been closed down to allow for more space between those that used them. Not that the line was long, but the process had been made more cumbersome, compared to what I was used to. A person in front of me, a Croatian, had a problem with the language and asked for help which suddenly reduced the distance by a hundredfold, because where to press on the screen when it was all in German? The event created confusion in the person who had taken up my 2 meter spot, when I wished to resume it, because were the two people in front of her not together? That I also had a problem was another thing checking in, but I went to ask, how I could know if my passport was a biometric one, which was what the machine asked me about. I don't know why it asked, because when I came back the boarding card was ready, as if the machine had figured it out in the meantime. I noticed that some other people also spent time at the counters and it looked like a couple had to start over.

Security - more scanning and checking, but some show transparency to security
When I entered the security check an officer had a pair of thongs with which he could dish out masks to those unfortunates that were insufficiently equipped. I thought that was a kind service, but they were satisfied with mine. The scanning ordeal was exactly the same and with similar results. The person in front was more lucky, but also so transparently dressed it confused me the ethnic appearance was like that often found in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. If nothing else it was an example of how to escape the padding, but then clothes may also protect.

Duty-free did not invite to impulse shopping
The open duty free area where one usually can walk in an out between the passage and the shop only had one entrance where a yellow vest assistant was guarding to make sure not too many came in at one time. There was not chance. All around it was limited with red-white plastic strips, as if it was a road repair or closed by the police. I refrained from taking a closer look at their goods, and I wasn't the only one, but wondered how they will even be able to pay their rent and their staff.

No printed tourist information - download if you need
Waiting at the gates, it was every other seat, as when departing from CPH. In the Frankfurt airport there were also none of the usual tourist and airport information folders. All the stands were empty, just empty grey shelves, and only one newspaper shelf was still stocked.

Summary: At the present times there are more restrictions at the airports. Even though the airports I used were not busy, it was good to have plenty of time. The self check-in counter took more time in Frankfurt. I experienced more scanning and body search than usual. Duty-free may be more sealed off to prevent unrestricted access to the shopping area. Seating facilities at the airport have been reduced to half, but with less people travelling it was still okay. If you think you need to find some map or airport information, perhaps it is better to prepare for the eventuality of less free printed tourist information and download it beforehand.

Adjusting a mask
This is a minor point, but as I studied how the hardware store dust mask worked, I found there was a small silicone disc that permitted exhaling and prevented inhaling since in a dusty situation inhaling should be done using the fabric filter. Below are two pictures of two different masks. One shows the inside and the other shows the outside. Only one is slightly modified to permit better air intake. From the outside there is no difference.


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