After asking people around the world, their perception and willingness to travel during Corona times, I wanted to see the perspective of people who have already taken the step and traveled during COVID-19 times. Therefore, I decided to interview four different persons who have traveled during Corona times to various destinations and consider multiple trip categories. 

travel experience coiv

Traveler’s experience in COVID-19 times — here are the questions

To understand if the duration of the journey could also influence the travelers’ opinions and feelings towards traveling, I decided to select a person for each of the following travel categories:

  • Domestic
  • Continental
  • Intercontinental less than 8 hours
  • Intercontinental for more than 8 hours

The interview consisted of multiple questions related to experience at the departure airport, onboard, and arrival airport. Participants are between the ages of 27 and 37, 50% male and 50% female, from different parts of the world. 

A good experience on a domestic flight

Our first participant is from Bogota, Colombia, and he flew domestic due to business reasons. 

Where do you live?
Bogota D.C. – Colombia 

Age?
28 years old 

From where to where was your trip?
From Bogota (BOG) to Cali (CLO)

When was your trip (month)?
November 2020 

Approximate trip duration? (How many days were you at the destination?)
2 days 

Approximate flight duration?
40 minutes 

What was the purpose of your trip?
Business

Describe your experience at the departure airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
At the airport entrance, you must follow a bio-security process. The airport personnel measures your temperature with temperature cameras, asks the passengers to wash their hands, and checks if the passengers have completed the Corona-App questionary and QR Status, which is mandatory for all travelers in Colombia. Without this QR status, passengers can’t enter the airport facilities. 

Did you have an in-flight service? (food service (included or purchased), entertainment system, in-flight magazine)
No, the airline didn’t provide any in-flight service due to current restrictions regarding the pandemic. Before the departure, the airline announced these restrictions and some bio-security recommendations for the in-flight time. 

What differences did you notice in comparison to the standard service?
The boarding process is handled, so the airport personnel assures that passengers don’t conglomerate and maintain the safety distance (2m). 

How did you feel traveling with a mask during the entire trip?
I felt safe.

Describe your experience at the arrival airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
There were not any differences compared to the standard procedure. 

Did you had to go on quarantine at your arrival destination?
No, I didn’t have to go on quarantine. 

Were you asked for a test before departure? If so, with how many hours in advance 48hrs, 24hrs? 
No, the only current request to make a national flight in Colombia is to complete the Corona-App form and QR status.  In this case, our participant provided us with great information, which allows us to see how some countries prepare travelers in advance for their journey. An interesting example of it is Colombia, with an App that provides a QR Code to each traveler after filling a questionnaire related to symptoms, contacting a person who experiences the symptoms, did an international or domestic trip, or belong to the healthcare workforce. 

Image of the Corona-App in Colombia

The sample images shared with us are, of course, in Spanish, as it’s Colombia’s official language. However, I will briefly describe each of them. 

Did you get tested upon arrival?
I had a test on my own to be sure I didn’t get the virus, but the test was not required by the airport officials. The Colombian government asks to complete a follow-up questionary every 3 days in the Corona-App for 30 days after the trip to see if the passengers have any COVID-related symptoms.  

Did you feel unsafe at any point during your journey? If so, why
Not at all.  

Are you willing to travel any time again soon after this experience?
Yes, for the moment, I don’t have a reason not to fly again. 

Are you willing to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays? If no, does your decision was influenced by your travel experience? Why?
No, it was not affected by my travel experience. I’m not traveling since I’m spending the holiday season with my family in Bogota. 


In this case, as we can see, our participant is not affected or impacted negatively by the travel during COVID-19 Times. He also helped us to develop new insights regarding possible measures for Governments, airports, or airlines to include in the statistics:

  1. Percentage of expected passengers during a day who obtained result ‘Contact Medical Staff.’
  2. Percentage of expected passengers during a day from Medical Workforce 
  3. Percentage of expected passengers denied boarding due to symptoms. 

A smooth and successful Continental Flight

Our second participant is from Regensburg, Germany. 

Where do you live?
Currently, I am living in Regensburg, Germany.

Age?
I’m 27 years old 

From where to where was your trip?
I flew from Munich (MUC) to Heraklion (HER) in Greece. 

When was your trip (month)?
My trip was in September 2020 

Approximate trip duration? (How many days were you at the destination?)
We stayed in Kreta for 15 days, from 12.09 until 27.09. 

Approximate flight duration?
The flight duration was around 3 hours. 

What was the purpose of your trip?
The purpose of my trip was doing a holiday with my husband—some sightseeing, relaxing and enjoying the sun. 

Describe your experience at the departure airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
The experience was surprisingly good. The staff was amicable and careful. I just noticed more presence of security and police. 

Because our destination was Greece, we had to fill out a paper online in advance for the entry there. The airline staff in Munich controlled that all passengers had the required document. If the form was not completed, the passengers were not allowed to board the flight. 

Additionally, during check-in, there were more barriers to maintain the distance between the passengers. The rest of the process remains exactly the same. 

During security control checks, the experience was also very similar to before. Again, the only difference was more distance and of course, all the staff and passengers wearing masks.  It didn’t take us more time than usual to complete the whole check-in and security control process. Everything was fast and smooth. 

Did you have an in-flight service? (food service (included or purchased), entertainment system, in-flight magazine)
There was a flight service on board. We got offered drinks, including water, tea, coffee, all soft drinks). We also had the option to buy food, in this case only snacks such as baguettes, small sandwiches or sweets. I noticed the staff was under pressure as the standard breakfast delivery was not offered, and many passengers wanted to buy snacks. It seems the airline didn’t calculate the expected amount, and the snacks were sold out quickly.  During the flight, there was no entertainment system and no In-flight magazine. 

What differences did you notice in comparison to the standard service?
Just the difference that there was no included food service, and you had only the option to buy some snacks. But the rest of the service was the same – nice and friendly, just with a mask.

How did you feel traveling with a mask during the entire trip?
For me, it was quite OK. I am used to it because I work for the whole day with customers, so I wear a mask. And during the flight, you were allowed to put off the mask when you eat or drink. When we arrived in Greece, we didn’t need to wear a mask in the hotel. Wearing a mask was not required at the beach or in the city, just in some shops or Sightseeing Tours.

Describe your experience at the arrival airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
The most significant difference was that we had to show the security control staff the document we had to fill out before we started the trip upon arrival. Then security control staff would decide if the passenger should take a Corona Test or not. But this “Document Control “was fast, and in my opinion, not many people had to go in a separate room to make a Corona Test. The rest at the airport in Heraklion was the same – a regular security check and fast handling, also just more security people and everybody worked with mask and kept distance.

Did you had to go on quarantine at your arrival destination?
No, I didn’t – my document was “OK, “so I didn’t have to do a Corona Test or quarantine.

Were you asked for a test before departure? If so, with how many hours in advance 48hrs, 24hrs? 
No, I also was not required a test before my trip. 

Did you get tested upon arrival?
It wasn’t an obligation when I arrived back in Munich. But I did it voluntarily directly when I arrived at the airport in Munich. There was a testing center, and you had the option to do it willingly and free of charge – so I did it for my own security.

Did you feel unsafe at any point during your journey? If so, why?
No, I didn’t – I really felt safe at both airports, at the hotel, and win Greece itself. I really could enjoy the trip and holidays.

Are you willing to travel any time again soon after this experience?
In September, when I traveled, the COVD-19 cases were not as high as we have now. So, at the moment, independent of all the safety measures at the airport and also hotels, I would not travel during this second wave. Of course, the airports’ process is quite relaxing, and they have an excellent safety concept. Therefore I would consider it after the situation is more controlled. 

Are you willing to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays? If no, does your decision was influenced by your travel experience? Why?
No. Of course, I am looking forward to traveling again because I really like it and my desire is getting bigger and bigger. But safety goes first. And because of the high rates at the moment, I don’t want to go anywhere. I prefer enjoying Christmas and New Year Time, together with my family at home and feel safe. But this has nothing to do with my previous travel experience because this was really beautiful.


In the case of our second participant, we can see her experience was also very smooth, and she’s looking forward to traveling again as soon as the situation improves after this second wave. 

From her experience, we see, for example, that airports, if requiring a specific entry document, can measure the following:

  1. Rate of passengers being tested per day (Decision-based on entry document)
  2. Rate of passengers who tested positive 
  3. Origin of passengers who got tested 
  4. Origin of passengers who tested positive

Informing passengers about the low risks in longer flights is necessary.

Our third participant is from Uzbekistan, where she flew to meet her family for some months. In her case, as her flight was at full capacity and had longer hours, her experience was different. 

Type of trip: Intercontinental (Less than 8 hours)

Where do you live?
Uzbekistan

Age?
I’m 32 years old.

From where to where was your trip?
From Frankfurt am Main (FRA) to Tashkent (TAS)

When was your trip (month)?
My trip was in October 2020

Approximate trip duration? (How many days were you at the destination?)
We stay in Uzbekistan for approximately two to three months and then go back to Frankfurt, when possible.

Approximate flight duration?
The trip was approximately 6 hours. 

What was the purpose of your trip?
Family circumstances

Describe your experience at the departure airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
I didn’t perceive any significant differences in the process. The only thing I needed to have for my journey was the Corona Negative Test confirmation document. 

Did you have an in-flight service? (food service (included or purchased), entertainment system, in-flight magazine)
Usually, the airline provided 2 meals during the flight, but this time it was only once, the quality of food got worse, and the assortment of drinks was lower. However, I still could listen to music, watch films, and play games. Everything was included in the ticket price. 

What differences did you notice in comparison to the standard service?
In Frankfurt airport, the number of people was significantly lower than before the pandemic. Everyone had masks, in the departure lounge, seating places were marked that it was forbidden to sit side by side, and food businesses were closed. I had to take a COVID test, which is mandatory to travel to UzbekistanAdditionally, we had to wear masks during the entire flight, and it was forbidden to make a queue to the toilet.

How did you feel traveling with a mask during the entire trip?
I found it terrible, it was uncomfortable to breathe freely, and I had to change the mask every 2 hours, so I could not relax as usual. 

Describe your experience at the arrival airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process?
In Tashkent Airport, everything was as usual except Corona test document control after leaving the aircraft.

Did you had to go on quarantine at your arrival destination?
During the flight, every passenger signed a commitment to stay home for 14 days after the flight.

Were you asked for a test before departure? If so, with how many hours in advance 48hrs, 24hrs? 
It was obligatory to make a corona test at least 72 hours before the flight.

Did you get tested upon arrival?
No, I was not required to do a test upon arrival. 

Did you feel unsafe at any point during your journey? If so, why?
The only thing that made me feel somehow unsafe was that the plane was full of people, so It was impossible to keep social distancing.

Are you willing to travel any time again soon after this experience?
No, only in urgent cases

Are you willing to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays? If no, does your decision was influenced by your travel experience? Why?
No, I am not planning because I don’t feel safe with planes being full and not keeping social distancing for so many hours. 


In this case, our participant didn’t have such a comfortable experience onboard. For her, the biggest challenge was wearing a mask for 6 hours straight—furthermore, not having social distance generated a feeling of unsafety. 

How can airlines change this perception of unsafety from passengers?

This case could indicate airlines should communicate to their passengers how this close sitting does not represent a high risk during the flight if wearing a mask. On the other hand, it is vital to provide passengers with disinfection kits to use during their journey. 

The fact that some passengers are requested a test previous to their travel, there are some additional KPIs that can be measured:

  1. Rate of Passengers with positive test with a travel schedule within the next 24hrs.
  2. Rate of Passengers with positive test with a travel schedule within the next 48hrs.
  3. Rate of Passengers with positive test previous to travel

A long but smooth journey

Our last but not least participant is from Barranquilla, Colombia, lived in Frankfurt, Germany for the previous 5 months and now will be moving to Paris, France. 

Type of trip: Intercontinental (more than 8 hours)

Where do you live? 
I’m currently moving from Frankfurt, Germany to Paris, France after the holidays

Age? 
37 

From where to where was your last trip? 
Bogota- Frankfurt 

When was your trip (month)? 
December 2020

Approximate trip duration? 
30 days in Bogota

Approximate flight duration? 
11 hours

What was the purpose of your trip? 
Obtaining my French Visa in Colombia

Describe your experience at the departure airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process? 
Only the traveler can get inside the airport. They have a temperature camera in Bogota. If you are above 37°C, you are not allowed to travel. Distance protocols are heavily enforced. It is crucial to have available the QR Code in the Corona App, and there’s additionally a handwash station. Boarding the plane is divided into more groups for the same purpose. The aircraft is designed for approx. 400 people. Only 22 were traveling from BOG to FRA.

Did you have an in-flight service? (food service (included or purchased), entertainment system, in-flight magazine) 
Dinner and breakfast were included. Also, the entertainment system was working. National flights are currently not including entertainment in domestic flights (This was offered before the pandemic).

What differences did you notice in comparison to the standard service? 
The use of masks is mandatory except when you drink water or eat your meal. 

How did you feel traveling with a mask during the entire trip? 
Very uncomfortable after long hours wearing it. 

Describe your experience at the arrival airport. What differences did you experience from the usual process? 
In Frankfurt, not much. Everybody wearing masks, but nothing else. Since the airport was empty, nothing much. 

Did you had to go on quarantine at your arrival destination? 
In Bogota, you are supposed to do it, and international travelers are supposed to enter with a negative COVID test.

Were you asked for a test before departure? If so, with how many hours in advance 48hrs, 24hrs? 
From Frankfurt to Bogota, yes, 72 hours before. 

Did you get tested upon arrival? 
No, I wasn’t requested to. 

Did you feel unsafe at any point during your journey? If so, why? 
Not really, everything was very organized, and I felt airlines and airports are handling the situation in the best possible way. 

Are you willing to travel any time again soon after this experience? 
Only if I have to. This, as currently the second wave, is very strong. Otherwise, I would continue traveling.  

Are you willing to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays? If no, does your decision was influenced by your travel experience? Why? 
We will travel by car, as we are traveling with my wife, in Germany. However, I don’t have a problem traveling by plane if flights were available to the destination we are heading to, and time could be saved. 


Based on our participant’s comment regarding the aircraft capacity vs. the passengers boarded, we’ve also considered some additional KPIs to be considered:

  1. Seat Load Factor, which corresponds to the percentage of available seating capacity filled with passengers.
  2. Target customer by understanding the % of travelers to which group corresponds (tourists, corporate travelers, friends, and family visitors)

Travel experiences in times of COVD-19 — A summary

In general, we can see that the travel experience has not changed drastically compared to what we know. However, even though people are traveling during COVID-19 times, some passengers still don’t feel completely safe traveling. We see a lot of work to do in terms of communication to passengers to provide safety, not only by providing the conditions but also communicating them correctly to the customer. Travelers must understand how the measures will help them stay safe during the entire trip. Like this, travelers will be encouraged to continue flying. 

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Consultant

Camila is passionate about aviation, data analytics, and a travel addict. With more than 7 years of experience in the aviation industry, she’s constantly providing solutions to different airlines in Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia and has experience in several countries in South America. Her main focus consists on KPIs implementation, visualization, and data analysis, with the objective to increase airlines’ operational awareness through the use of real-time data.