Flying during a Pandemic

Kota Kinabalu (KK), where I live, was categorised as a Green Zone for quite some time due to minimal cases of COVID-19. In early July when it felt safe to travel, I booked a return flight to Kuala Lumpur. However, I wasn’t aware that AirAsia had announced they would be operating at full capacity, hence, it was shocking to see that my flight was almost full, with most middle seats being occupied. Further reading may suggest why they were confident to do so.

“According to IATA, evidence suggests the risk of Covid-19 transmission on board is extremely low as aircraft are equipped with features that will reduce the already-low risk of transmission onboard. 

Passengers are seated facing forward with the seatback serving as a solid barrier, while the cabin air is fully filtered and renewed every 2-3 minutes through the hospital-grade high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, ensuring clean cabin air. 

Coupled with a layered approach of biosafety measures covering the entire passenger journey, the risk of transmission onboard is further minimised.” –  Reported by Zairina Zainudin / Bernama

(Click to read full article)

Here’s a video of my recent trip to both KLIA and KKIA:

I thought it might be helpful to share some personal tips based on my experience travelling with AirAsia during the pandemic.


  • Check-in flight online at least a day before to avoid going to the counter. Somehow online check-in often fails me on the day itself

  • Check policy updates on cabin baggage. As of 7 July 2020, 2 pieces of cabin baggage within a total of 7kg are allowed

  • Attire: Covering up (mask, sunglasses, long sleeves, trousers, socks, trainers) will minimise chances of being exposed to the virus. Tying up long hair keeps things tidy, and carrying a handbag makes for easy access to things

  • Things to bring on board:

    1. Pen – to fill in health declaration forms
    2. Soap – washing hands regularly with soap and running water is most effective in killing germs and viruses
    3. Sanitiser – when you can’t wash your hands
    4. Lotion – frequent hand washing can dry out the skin
    5. Wet wipes – to wipe surfaces/seats
    6. Phone, credit/debit card – for contactless transactions of payments/information
    7. Ziplock – to keep mask when eating, or store extra masks
    8. Earphones – to keep calm
    9. ID card/passport – for identification, and to collect stamps (might as well)


  • Arrive 2-3 hours earlier to allow sufficient time for screening and check-in
  • Check point screenings: Entrance to airport, arrival/departure hall and waiting lounge
  • Print boarding pass/luggage tag with QR code at kiosk
  • Check-in luggage at kiosk (unless it’s oversized)
  • Eat at home before going to the airport
  • Eat fruits to stay hydrated without having to visit the toilet often
  • Practice social distancing whenever possible
  • To avoid large crowds while boarding, queue at the back of the line


  • Aircraft is sprayed with disinfectant before every flight, and undergoes 2-hour deep cleaning every night
  • Cabin air is filtered through HEPA air filters normally used in hospitals 
  • Aisle seats and hot seats in front are the best. Pre-book if you have the budget. Else, you may ask for permission to change seats if you’re uncomfortable sitting next to someone (subject to availability)
  • Only pre-booked meals, packaged snacks and canned/bottled drinks are served
  • Limit toilet visits. No queuing outside the lavatory
  • Reduce unnecessary contact (face, people, objects)
  • Mask on at all times


  • There was no screening upon arrival at KLIA
  • A 2-page health and risk declaration form by Sabah state was distributed on the flight back to KK
  • Upon arrival at KKIA, before going through immigration, there’s thermal screening and an interview where we submit the form

Are you ready?

  • Do health assessment on MySejahtera app to ensure physical eligibility to fly
  • Think about possible vulnerable people around you
  • Consider your mental health (E.g. Anxiety – It can be overwhelming if you’re not mentally prepared. Try stress management tips like box breathing). Seek professional help if needed

In conclusion, travel only when necessary. Social distancing can be difficult to enforce at the airport due to cost, lack of manpower and space. I realised a few people were not entirely comfortable being around me knowing that I had just travelled. If you can afford to, do quarantine before meeting people, or just be extra cautious and aware.

As a travel junkie, I had to accept the fact that travel will never be the same again, perhaps it’s for the better, especially for the environment. Though the expenses are high, these extra precautionary measures are good and could have been in place to protect people even before the pandemic. If you’re travelling soon, may you have a safe flight and peace of mind.

Do suggest in the comments below if you’ve any other tips!