Flying during the pandemic

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We were very lucky to be able to travel and visit our families this summer, in between lockdowns. We had not yet been informed that the new school year would kick off 100% online, so we made sure to be back in Ecuador on time to go back to school. Flights options were very reduced, so we decided to fly KLM.

We haven’t had many opportunities to fly KLM before, but we always had pleasant experiences with them. So after a first flight, we were in Amsterdam, catching our connecting flight to Ecuador. As usual, I was flying along with the kids, so I had booked a complete row of 3, window side. However, the plane is almost empty, and the computer obviously seated everyone in the front rows. Seeing this, a flight attendant comes to us and suggests we move to the back of the plane, once it’s finished taking off. She insisted on the waiting part, so we did wait until the “fasten your seat belt” sign was off. We took all our hand luggage and moved to the back, where I spotted two empty three-seats rows, window side, away from other passengers.

We were barely sitting that the flight attendant started throwing us the blue KLM headphones, not handing out, but really throwing out. New protocols involve a limited on-board service, and giving the few passengers, I thought we would get our lunch served quickly. And boy did I not imagine how right I would be! It was barely 11 am, and lunch was already served.

“Mum, I’m not hungry.”. I know, son, neither I am, so early, but the flight attendants are already picking up the trays… so we keep the bread and cookies for later. After that, no more sign of the flight attendants. Since we had to get up at 2 am to be on time at the airport, the kids are settling up for a nap. My eldest havong some history of being “plane sick”, he settles comfortably on his own on a 3-seats row, and quickly falls asleep. And sleeps well for a long time.

The flight attendants are already coming back with the next meal. I check my watch: even considering time at destination, it is very early for lunch. Nevermind. No more trays this time, we are getting a sandwich wrapped in a small carton box. My eldest is still asleep, and the flight attendant litterally throws the carton box on him – no exagerating here. . I have no time to react, she doesn’t look nor care and has already left. I stand up to check on my son, who is thankfully still sleeping. We won’t see the flight attendants again until the end of the flight.

Since the airplane were almost empty, I was kind of expecting a more pleasant experience than usual. I was really far from the truth! I also thought, naively, that airline employees would care more about their jobs, especially given the actual circumstances and the incertainty of their future. The KLM flight attendants, however, seemed to be thinking “the less I do, the better, who cares about customers anyway”. I never had any complaints about KLM so far, but this was a very disappointing experience. I wish I could say it was just bad luck, an exception. But my husband flew back a few days earlier and did not have a better flight than we did. He even got rebuffed when he mentioned social distancing rules weren’t being respected during the boarding procedures…

Let me end up with a positive point: there are new protocols to get off the plane. Erveryone has to remain seated, you can’t stand up or get your luggage from the upper compartment before it is your turn to leave the plane. And that turn comes row after row, starting from the front. That way, there are no more people waiting in the aisles, no more pushing, no more congestion, and no standing too close to one another. As a result, you actually get off the plane much quicker. It turns out to be a very efficient system, and I do hope they will keep enforcing it in the future!

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