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Wanderlust | New normal in travel

No thanks to COVID-19, quarantine locked all of us down inside our homes and halted our means to move around, whether it’s within neighborhoods or across islands. The virus has, so-to-speak, successfully clipped our wings.

In more than 2 months, we missed the thrill of travel and the comfort of being with friends and families who are hundreds and thousands of miles away.

Personally, I miss friends in Manila and the fun of catching up whenever we see eaxh other. I also itch to have a taste of the unique cuisines of Bacolod, Iloilo and Cebu once again. And all this time, I have been daydreaming of simmering bowls of satti in Basilan and syagul pagi in Tawi-Tawi, and yes, lounging in the romantic beaches of Siargao and Camiguin. Don’t we all?

What consoles me though – and you who have kept your wanderlust temporarily on hold – is the promise that air travel is coming back very soon in the so-called new normal.

Last week, during the SpeakEAZY online conversation with Cebu Pacific Air corporate communications director Charo Logarta Lagamon, she assured that their airline will soon make “every Juan fly again”.

“This is a very challenging time for the industry. But like what happened after 911 in 2011, we just need to adapt to some changes. It’s just a matter of time for us to get used to a new normal,” she said.

So, what is the new normal in aviation?

“If 911 prompted us to render heightened security. This time around, we’re focusing on biosecurity to help us manage the risk of COVID-19 infection,” she replied.

This will entail passengers to check-in their flights online and maintain minimal contact as possible with ground staff. Wearing a face mask is required before, during and after flight. Markers are placed in queues to guide physical distancing. To check in or for bag drop, an individual can represent a group by simply flashing their boarding pass for scanning. Then, at the boarding gates, there will also be a 1 or 2 seat apart configuration.

“You also need to be at the airport, at least, 3 hours earlier as the processes will be longer. Check-in counters will also close an hour before flight,” Lagamon added.

For boarding, it will be done by rows at the gate. In the absence of a boarding bridge, buses will take 20 passengers at the time to their designated planes.

Inside the plane, only 1 piece of hand carry (not exceeding 7 kilograms) is allowed, and this will be stowed by the passengers themselves.

“For in flight seating configuration, we can space passengers by seat apart, if not at full capacity. But if traveling with families, loved ones, or in groups, they can sit beside each other,” she explained.

For the time being, there will be no food service except bottled water. Inflight publication won’t be available as well. According to Lagamon, they might go digital or use a special type of paper – but nothing final as of the moment.

Passengers are also not allowed to change seats for possible contact tracing procedures. Forming queues for lavatory use or in deplaning is also prohibited. For the latter, passengers will be called again by row numbers.

“We are also doing sanitation at a higher level, following much stringent protocols for disinfection of aircrafts and other facilities. Our aircrafts are sanitized in between flights while deep disinfection will be done when parked in their hubs using specialized aviation chemicals that kill 99% of viruses and bacteria including the coronavirus. Our aircrafts also use hospital grade air filters,” she said.

In addition, airline personnel are protected with PPEs and will undergo mandatory rapid testing before they go on duty.

Initially, according to Lagamon, Cebu Pacific will have a gradual startup with domestic routes, factoring in market demand and quarantine restrictions. A fraction of these flights will cater mostly to essential travel. International flights will hopefully resume later this year.

As for the seat sale that the airline is known for? “From the get-go, Cebu Pacific has always been known to provide affordable and accessible fares and it’s not going to change. We will continue to have seat sales, something everyone can look forward to,” Lagamon confirmed.

We may have apprehensions in flying again but what made things assuring is the fact that safety measures will be strictly followed and the excitement of making new travel memories are just too hard to resist. That’s, I guess, how wanderlust works.

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