I Bought A Flight Ticket To Travel During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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The Malaysian government has allowed for domestic travel to begin again starting 10 June 2020. We urge you to maintain social distancing, upkeep your personal hygiene, and adhere to all SOPs imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you’re still not sure about travelling during this time, we hope you keep Zafigo as a source of inspiration for your future travels.

Yes, you read that title correctly. Crazy, huh?

In a time when the entire world is shut down and travel is prohibited due to the deadly disease that is COVID-19, I bought a flight ticket to Los Angeles, in the good ol’ US of A. You see, I am in a very new long-distance relationship. My significant other (SO from here on) lives in California, and the last time I saw him was on 1 January 2020. We made plans to meet up again some time in the middle of this year, but COVID-19 came along and ruined everything.

When Malaysia imposed the initial Movement Control Order (MCO) from 18-31 March, I wasn’t very pressed because I figured it would all be okay again after those two weeks. Then there was an extension. And another one. Understandably, it was all for the greater good. Come May, everything was looking on the up and up, and so I went ahead and bought that flight ticket to LA for late August.

Photo by Sterling Davis via Unsplash

In case you’re wondering, I am very much aware that there are over 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths in America, and protests that are taking place at this moment (#BlackLivesMatter!). Even considering getting on an airplane during this global health crisis is insane enough, but let me share some of my reasons for doing it.

Reason #1: Avoiding rumoured price hikes

There was a lot of talk about flights costing more than usual when the world opened back up because airlines would want to make up for the money lost during the lockdown. I didn’t want to get caught in a price hike and have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on travel.

If there’s anyone out there who’s also up for taking a chance on international travel, consider these (really beautiful) eight countries that are COVID-19-free!: 8 Countries With ZERO Active COVID-19 Cases To Put On Your Travel List

Reason #2: Taking advantage of airlines rescheduling policy

Most major airlines allow flight rescheduling for tickets bought within a certain period. This period varies by airlines. I figured if the travel restrictions stood any longer, I could just postpone my flight to a later date when travel is allowed again. I bought my trip on Singapore Airlines which allows me to make unlimited changes to my travel dates before 31 August 2020, with all change fees waived. After 31 August 2020, I am allowed one complimentary one-time change to my dates, provided that I do so within 12 months from my ticket’s date of issue.

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Reason #3: I’ll be honest, this was a panic-buy

The thought of not being able to see my SO at some point of this year sent me into a panic, and I basically shopped under duress. Plus, I figured that if – for any reason at all – this relationship doesn’t work out (fervently knocking on wood here), I can still go to LA to spend time with my best friend who also lives there. Win-win!

This dramedy that is my life aside, I weighed the following risks of travelling during this pandemic.

Photo by Tai’s Captures via Unsplash

Risk #1: Contracting COVID-19

I am in good health. I am also a bit of a clean freak, and very much a stickler for hygiene and manners. I also strongly believe in adhering to all SOPs set by airports and airlines to ensure the safety of travellers. Face masks, sanitisers, and other essential protective products and equipment – coupled with stringent hygiene practices like hand sanitising and social distancing – will keep me safe. Also, I learned that the chance of the disease spreading in an aircraft is reduced thanks to the air filtration system in the aircrafts

Risk #2: Transmitting COVID-19 to people around me

So even if I don’t catch COVID-19, I am at risk of transmitting it to someone else. All my tactics as listed above comes into play of course, but like I mentioned in this article , I have an extended disinfection plan. First, I’ll throw out the clothes I wear on each leg of my trip (wasteful but necessary). Then I’d shower – complete with hair wash – once on my layover before I board my connecting flight, and again at LAX before I exit the airport and meet my SO.

Risk #3: Getting caught in a travel ban or airline grounding, preventing me from returning to KL

What if while I’m in the US, they decide to temporarily restrict air travel? I may be stuck and would have to deal with ticketing and rescheduling issues (assuming they don’t allow tourists to leave, or airlines are all grounded once again). Fortunately, my job is one that can be done remotely. One tiny downside is having to navigate the 15-hour time difference with KL. A plus to being grounded is that I’d at least be with my SO.

Photo by Amir Hanna via Unsplash

Risk #4: Having to be quarantined upon return to Malaysia

This was a concern mainly because the government had announced that Malaysians returning from overseas would have to bear the cost of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, another announcement was made that starting 10 June, people coming back to Malaysia would be able to carry out their two-week quarantine in their own homes, and have their movements monitored via the MySejahtera app.

On 7 June, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that non-essential international travel was still closed until 31 August (but Malaysians can now travel domestically), which basically rendered all my plans useless. To add salt to my wounds, my SO found out that he is being sent away for work from September onwards… for 10. Whole. Months. Even if travel restrictions lifted, I may not be able to go see him wherever he is because of the nature of his job. So right now, my trip (and the rest of our plans) are on hold until late July/early August next year.

Send all your prayers, well wishes, and good vibes this way, guys! I’m going to need all the positive juju to get through these next 12 months.

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Eliza Thomas
Eliza is the editor of Zafigo. She loves long-distance travel, cold weather, and the beach. Her favourite city is Los Angeles and she believes no other country has a better food scene than Malaysia. You're welcome to try and change her mind.