About air travel and social distancing

Sunday May 24 2020



By Nafha Maani Ebrahimi

Trying time. For frequent fliers, this could be the hardest time of their lives as uncertainty looms over the aviation industry. Nafha Maani Ebrahimi wonders how social distance shall be kept in the aircrafts.

I was having a chat with a friend works for one of the most prominent aviation industries, very curious to know when and, if they will start their flights any time soon. The answer as I expected was vague and uncertain.

However, some passenger planes are already being used as cargo planes, to keep a little flow of income, for an industry under the weight of Coronavirus effects.

During the time when we were all asked to reduce our carbon print by flying less, not many took heed, including myself.

Any chance to travel was a good occasion that we did not let go. It is interesting that I never felt guilty, it is like I knew that a break would come through and voilà, here is the break.

What is interesting is that even when airports open and airlines start operating, no one knows what it will look like.


We seem to be far from going back to ‘normal’, social distancing rules may limit the number of passengers aboard planes, and probably other modes of transport. This might mean fewer numbers on each row, keeping at least one seat empty between two passengers.

I remember all the times I sweet-talked the check-in staff, to get such type of seating, there was nothing like the freedom of moving around. Squishing your legs and not hitting the elbow of your neighbour every time you made a move.

In recent years, to accommodate more passengers, economy class seats seem to have shrunk in width, and distance between the rows narrowed. I felt sorry for tall people onboard. Being of medium height, I already had difficulty stretching my legs, so I do not know how they managed especially during long haul flights.

If one was lucky during low seasons, they could find a whole unoccupied row. I could see the seasoned travellers, eyeing these rows and with the first announcement that boarding was completed, they would sprint to book the seats that will turn into their beds as soon as the plane was airborne.

Of course later, such chances were extremely rare, there were massive numbers crossing continents and oceans to get to the other side of the world.

In business class, the distance between seats is just right and even better onboard the A-380 planes. So I do not see much of a problem there, but the best scenario is the first class cabins onboard the A-380 series, separated cabins that not only provide privacy, but also safety.

However, to find yourself in one, you have to budget a whole year’s expenses, or get lucky with an upgrade. For now, the sky remains quiet.