As Founder and CEO of Parabellum Investments, which owns companies across the globe, I spend a lot of my time in flights and airports. From the start of the global pandemic at the end of March, I have been on 38 flights and have had some unique, even unnerving experiences. Here are some excerpts from my travel diary.
APRIL 12, 2020
Airline: British Airways; Departure airport: London Heathrow; Arrival Airport: Nice, France
I was one of just three passengers on today’s flight. On a practical level, this was pleasant, but it was also depressing in manifesting the impact that Covid, and associated government decisions, have had on our most basic and individual freedoms. Freedoms that we all previously took for granted.
Business class is never particularly busy, and service is generally good but, today, there was little cabin service and no food served. What happens to be slightly annoying is that, since Covid started dictating our movements, the plane gets boarded from the back first.
JUNE 18, 2020
Airline: Lufthansa; Departure airport: London Heathrow; Arrival Airport: Frankfurt
All German airports or hotels need a negative Covid test conducted within 48 hours of arrival in the country. Additionally, when you consider various countries have implemented differing quarantine regulations, international travel schedules have become unrecognisable compared to the first quarter of 2020.
What is striking here, along with other airports I have been to, is the lack of any people. There are often more airport staff than travellers, and rules for departure and arrivals differ from country to country and time to time. For the first time in memory, I was asked quite a few questions by customs officials – usually there’s barely any eye contact, given I have a French passport, so EU travel is a given.
Also, Terminal 2 is now closed so all flights operate out of one terminal – useful to note for my departure given it is usually out of Terminal 2.
AUGUST 8, 2020
Airline: Emirates; Departure airport: Paris; Arrival airport: Dubai
Of the 38 flights I have taken since the end of March, today’s Emirates flight in particular hammered home just how seriously the aviation sector is taking Covid-19.
Today’s cabin crew, instead of modelling their usual well-groomed, highly tailored corporate look, were clad head-to-toe in full hazmat suits. Like many of my fellow passengers, I was taken aback as I boarded the flight. Indeed, entering the cabin felt more like entering the set of a sci-fi film. The flight-attendants, although super-pleasant and highly-apologetic about the impact to the usual high-quality onboard service, were prevented from accompanying us to our seats, and all food served throughout the journey arrived in pre-packaged boxes. (Emirates has since restarted full F&B services)
Emirates also requires both a negative Covid test and a confirmed UAE government approval for returning residents. Specifically, at this time, only UAE residents can travel to Dubai.
NOVEMBER 3, 2020
Airline: Lufthansa; Departure airport: London Heathrow; Arrival airport: Frankfurt
With the number of travellers now getting some way back to normal I spoke at length with the German CEO of one of my portfolio companies today about the cultural business differences across Europe. People seem keener to meet in France and in Germany. In the UK, people are generally more cautious or wish to adhere to government guidelines.
Across all countries, people seem to be adapting to working remotely, but it is clear they all cherish how life was before. Maybe one of the side-effects of Covid is making us all realise that basic freedoms and human rights we all took for granted have been temporarily taken away and people react in one of two ways – they are either afraid or furious.
I’m very much in the latter camp and I’m counting down the days until we can carry on with our business and personal lives as we did before.
By Rami Cassis
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