Flying Overseas During a Pandemic: A First Hand Account

Flying Overseas During a Pandemic: A First Hand Account

Ever wonder what it’s like to fly in the middle of a pandemic? Are airlines safe? Are airplanes safe? Here is an overview of my traveling experience overseas.

Destination: Armenia 

Armenia is a small country about the size of Maryland located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. All of my family lives there. I will be living in Armenia from January 15 2021 until 1 month later, February 17.

How safe is Armenia?

When I first arrived in Armenia, the seven-day average of Covid cases was 351 cases. In the past, Armenia has done really well with taking precautions to stop the spread of Covid. In my opinion, Covid was worse in Massachusetts compared to Armenia. 

The Airport:

Boston Logan Airport was crowded with people on January 15. Everyone was traveling somewhere despite a pandemic. Although everyone did take precautions and wear masks. Few made sure to stay 6 ft apart. The journey to the plane was fairly easy. There were fewer spots to sit down in the airport due to every other chair being restricted for Covid measures. 

How Safe are Airplanes?

Some may be worried that airplanes are the least safe place to be right now. That you are in an enclosed space with a bunch of other people that you don’t know, that could be carriers of the virus. Thanks to Massachusetts guidelines it is required to quarantine or get a test prior to or after arrival. If anyone tested positive they would message the airlines. But surprising, airplanes have one of the best air ventilating systems due to the high altitude. In fact, most airplanes have purer air compared to the majority of hospitals. “When it comes to infectious disease, airplanes have an excellent safety record because the air people breathe while flying is some of the most filtered air in travel” according to Joseph Allen, who directs the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Also according to CNN, “All major commercial jets have ventilation systems with high-quality HEPA filters capable of removing 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and other airborne particles with a size as small as 0.3 microns.” For comparison, Covid is believed to be between 0.06 and 1.4 microns.

The Flight:

I will be traveling with Qatar Airways. I will have a 13-hour flight to Qatar, a layover then a 3-hour flight to Armenia. I was expecting everyone on the plane to be required to wear a face mask and a face shield because a couple of months ago face masks and face shields were required. On this plane, only face masks were required and not face shields. Passengers sat in every other seat and were given a small Covid kit providing an extra face mask, hand sanitizer, and an antibacterial wipe. As the plane ride went on the majority of the passengers kept their face masks on. Although in order to eat or drink, masks were pulled down. Once in Qatar departure was easy. The Qatar Airport was taking necessary precautions. 

Inside of Armenia:

Inside of Armenia things were different. Since the cases were so low and barely any spread of Covid, not many wore masks. Before entering any building they would check your temperature, but some still didn’t wear any masks. It was almost as if Covid wasn’t a thing anymore. The ironic part was that the Covid cases cut in half in my time being resulting in a seven-day average of 154 Covid cases for the week of February 14 compared to a seven-day average of 351 cases for the week of January 15. Around the time of my departure from Armenia, Universities were already starting to go in person and the smaller schools could have children go in-person every day. 

Flying home:

Flying home was different than flying to Armenia. A Covid test was required before even entering the airport. I also had to fill out a lot of paperwork about Covid. Entry to the US is a lot stricter compared to the entry of other countries for Covid. On both airplanes, the majority wore face masks, but this time many people pulled their face masks down on the plane rides. (Armenia to Qatar, Qatar to America) On the plane ride from Qatar to America, when first boarding, every single person was assigned a seat in the back portion of the plane leaving the middle portion completely empty. I don’t know the reasoning for this, maybe to distribute the weight of the plane evenly, but as soon as the plane took off and was in the air the majority of passengers moved to the middle, equally spreading out everyone in a safe distance. 


I believe that flying on a plane is pretty safe as long as you do YOUR job to stop the spread of the CoronaVirus. Of course, no one should be traveling in the middle of a pandemic unless completely necessary. If one has to travel they should know the airlines do their job, it’s just up to the people to do their part.