Airlines: Observations Of Flying In Half Empty Planes

When there are more cabin crew than passengers, you know you’re in for a comfortable flight.

Flying has suddenly become a lot harder (even impossible) as countries, and states, close their borders to minimise the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Australia’s government has now put a total ban on its citizens travelling until further notice, and many other countries are in total lockdown.

Despite the hardline stance to combat the spread of coronavirus, there are people still flying (if they can get flights), including aide workers and those who are travelling on compassionate grounds.

Travelling on these so-called ghost flights right now is a surreal experience, as I discovered last week flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and then from Hong Kong to Sydney with Qantas. Both flights were less than half full.

Here’s what I learned about flying at a time when everyone else is bunkered down.


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> Most of the time airports and airplanes are eerily empty. Other times you suddenly encounter packed flights and a mass of people frantic to get somewhere.
> Social distancing is easy to practice given the huge number of empty seats on most flights.
> It might be considered the poor man’s business class, but on many long-haul flights there are so many empty seats that most people can actually lie down and sleep.
> There are also extra meals so you can often have seconds, if airline food is your thing. Qantas cabin crew actually told us there were so many spare meals that the whole cabin could have a second serve. I politely declined.
> You can put your seat back with confidence that there's probably no one sitting behind you. It’s still worth checking.
> Because these are uncertain times for everyone, cabin crew and fellow passengers seemed more courteous, helpful and considerate than usual.
> But if anybody dares cough or sneeze on a plane, you can bet everyone will give them a death stare.
> Even though there are so many empty seats, don't think you're more likely to score an upgrade. It doesn't work like that. 

Airlines usually compensate for the lack of passengers at the pointy end by putting more cargo in the forward underbelly. That balances the weight when most passengers are in economy seats at the rear.

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We’ll all be travelling again when the time is right.
© 2020 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved. 

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