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  • Writer's pictureDia KL

Travelling flying through the Covid19 1st wave. Part 1: Asia to Europe 2020

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

Covid19 has changed everything and especially the way we travel. I decided to make a series of posts describing my experience travelling during this time.

During the 1st wave of the virus I was self-isolating in the countryside of Japan and doing farmwork. My initial plan before the virus hit, was to go to Europe, visit my family and dogs and then travel around a bit visiting good old friends. During the end of the 1st wave, Summer of 2020, I was lucky enough to get a farming job in a couple of farms in Norway. Norway was closed for tourism at that point, but you could enter if you had a valid job contract, which I did. So this was the sign to try to find my way back to Europe.

Immediately it was obvious how hard was to travel around that period. Flights getting canceled, borders closing, quarantines and tests plus not much information out there. Somehow I made it, eventually it took me 5 days and 6 flights to reach the beautiful little village in Norway...!!!

All the international flights in and out of Japan were going only from Tokyo. So in July 2020, I took an internal flight from Fukuoka airport (FUK) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) with Jetstar. The flight was around half full. The flight attendants wore masks but no other protective gear.

In Tokyo Narita airport there was some traffic in the domestic terminal area. But as soon as I went to the international terminal area everything changed.

Tokyo Narita Airport International departures during the Covid19 1st wave, Summer July 2020. No people and many flights canceled.
Tokyo Narita Airport International Departures July 2020

Tokyo Narita Airport International departures during the Covid19 1st wave, Summer July 2020. No people and many flights canceled.
Tokyo Narita Airport International Departures July 2020. Empty...

Most of the gates were closed. There were no people around and the shops were closed as well. The place looked really empty which was such a weird, kinda spooky, feeling. Under normal circumstances this airport serves approximately 44 million passengers (2019 data), I've used it quite many times and it's always really busy.

But then, looking at the departures panel, you could get an idea of what was going on...

Departure flights, Narita International airport, July 2020. Almost all the flights cancelled...

I've never seen so many flights cancelled in a single day. Actually when I caught my first glimpse on that panel I was struck with a feeling of horror. Almost all the daily departures were canceled, only a few would fly. And fortunately my flight to Doha with Qatar Airways was one of these few! It would even depart 20 minutes earlier than planned! Well done Qatar Airways!

Boeing 777-300ER from Tokyo Narita Airport Japan to Doha Hamad Airport in July 2020 during the Covid19 pandemic.
My aircraft to Doha, a Boeing 777-300ER.

Later, when I also saw my flights' aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, being prepared at the gate, I was sure that my flight would take off as scheduled.

Qatar Airways flight from Narita airport Japan to Doha Hamad airport Qatar during the Covid19 pandemic. July 2020.
In my seat, flying from Narita Japan to Doha Qatar.

Of course our body temperature had been checked multiple times before we board the flight. We were provided with a face shield as well. Back then I didn't know that the face mask I had (with the filters) was not allowed on flights - it protects me from others but not the other way around. The staff on the next flight let me know so this was my only flight with this kind of mask. Further more, hilariously, I didn't know that there were two protective covers on the face shield, on the outer and inner layer, which they had to be removed. And that's why my face shield looks so hazy while the guys' behind me and right is so clear. Fortunately a nice fellow in Doha told me and I finally had a clear vision.

Qatar airways flight from Narita Japan to Doha Qatar during the Covid19 pandemic first wave, July 2020. Protective kit with gloves, mask and hand sanitizing gel.
Flights' protective kit.

We were also given a protective kit with disposable gloves, hand sanitizing gel and a normal mask. The staff wore disposable gloves, masks and protective glasses. But they had their normal official clothing. Snacks, food and beverages were normally served and that was the only time we could remove our face shield and mask. The flight was really smooth.

Cleaners with protective clothing ready to clean our aircraft after arrival in Hamad International Airport, Doha Qatar in July 2020 during the Covid19 pandemic first wave.
Cleaners with protective clothing ready to clean our aircraft after arrival in Doha, Qatar.

Arriving in Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, while going down our aircraft to catch the bus to the transit area, I saw the cleaners with their protective gear, getting ready to come clean our aircraft.

Hamad International Airport, Doha Qatar. July 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic first wave.
Hamad International Airport, Doha Qatar.

Hamad International Airport in Doha has various art installed here and there. Normally it's a really busy airport as it is a major hub, serving approximately 38 million passengers (2019 data). Now it felt like any other airport with normal traffic. Since Qatar Airways was still flying there were considerably more people here, connecting to flights all over the world. Most of the shops and restaurants were open.

Hamad International Airport, Doha Qatar. July 2020.

Social distancing was enforced on the seats and you can see at the photo that were quite many people, compared to other airports during that time. It's a nice airport with only two disadvantages (my personal opinion), the seats are made in a way that you can't lay down if you have a long stop over (there are of course resting areas but probably you don't want to use them during the Covid19 time as they are crowded) and they really pound you with the air condition, if you don't have any clothes on you it's highly likely you might catch a cold and that's exactly what you don't want to happen when they check your body temperature everywhere you go.

My next flight to Athens, Greece went ahead as scheduled. In that flight the staff wore white protective clothes instead of their normal uniform and it seemed to me that they were much more alert about the virus than the previous flights.

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