‘How I Took a Flight With My Newborn Amid COVID-19 Crisis’
Try to book front row window seats or seats in premium economy or business class.
Gazing at the news reports covering this harrowing pandemic, it seems as though things cannot get any worse and yet every single day, add the COVID-19 numbers continue escalating worldwide.
While travellers are already cautious and avoiding non-essential travel themselves, there are people like me, who got stuck during the lockdown and had to make this tough decision of travelling with a new-born baby.
Taking the decision itself took days and days of scrutinising and speaking to different paediatricians and neonatologists to ensure that I wasn’t putting my baby’s life at risk by travelling.
While two doctors advised to refrain from travelling by public transport until this pandemic slowed down, there were two others who calmed me and offered helpful advice on how to make this journey possible considering that this was essential travel for us.
To Travel or Not to Travel With a Baby?
After speaking to four doctors one thing was clear, you need to refrain from non-essential travel with a baby especially using any form of public transport in India. So, if you are wondering whether or not to travel with your baby, here are some tips based on my experience of taking a domestic flight from Jaipur to Bhubaneswar via Delhi with a three-month-old.
Don’t Book in Advance
Commonly you would want to book in advance to get the best seats for your trip. But considering India’s population, and the limited flights that are operating currently, I would suggest you refrain from booking in advance because the chances are that your flight might get full on the day of your travel.
We booked our flight just two days ahead as we wanted to ensure that the flight had sufficient empty seats and still, we got the best seats.
Choose Your Seat Wisely
Try to book front row window seats (for Indigo and SpiceJet) or seats in premium economy or business class (for Air Vistara and Air India). These seats offer sufficient distance from people even if the flight is full and you can take the liberty of boarding last and disembarking first.
For Jaipur to Delhi flight, I booked the front row window seat and boarded the plane last. Whereas I booked business class for the Delhi to Bhubaneswar flight in Air India. We were lucky to be the only ones sitting in the 12-seater business class section of the aircraft.
Maintain Social Distance
Indians are habituated to form long queues the minute boarding is announced and as soon as the plane touches down at the runway. Unfortunately, we continue to do that even now forgetting about social distancing.
Remember if you are at the gate, they are not going to fly without you and once you are inside the aircraft, they will ensure you get out of it, safely. It is your prerogative to maintain social distancing as much as possible.
In both my flights, I didn’t hurry and ensured we were last to board. While we couldn’t be the first to disembark in the Jaipur to Delhi flight as people had queued up after landing, so we sat patiently allowing everyone to exit and walked out last.
If your aircraft is not connected to the aerobridge and you will need to take the bus to board, even then, make sure you stand away from the crowd.
Do Not Cover the Baby’s Face
WHO guidelines clearly state that babies under two years of age should not be wearing mask or any form of covering that might cover their nose.
The best way to cover your baby is to make them wear full-sleeved clothes including mittens and keep them close to you, covered loosely by their swaddle.
Inside the aircraft, if it is a full flight then breastfeeding the baby for as long as possible will automatically keep the baby’s mouth and nose close to your body with reduced chances of inhalation of any viruses.
Now is not the time for shying away from breastfeeding publicly. You can also use a pacifier to soothe the baby and prevent them from sucking their hands if the baby is not hungry.
Ensuring that the baby doesn’t touch any surface is very important especially for newborns as you cannot use sanitizer or soap to clean their hands while travelling. Mittens can help in this case, so that you can change them the minute you suspect the baby touched any surface unexpectedly.
Minimise Your Touch Points at the Airport
We had a four-hour layover at the Delhi Airport and while I have always enjoyed spending time at T3, this time, I was panicked to the core considering this pandemic and the fact that it was my first time travelling with a baby.
I ensured that I didn’t touch anywhere while holding the baby in my arms. My husband ensured that he wiped all surfaces possible with a sanitizer spray including the chairs where we sat.
We didn’t go to our gates until boarding was announced and sat at a deserted gate to avoid crowds. Once inside the aircraft, we sanitized our seats including the seatbelt buckle, arm rest, tray table, and window pane before touching. In order to avoid touching the soap dispenser inside the washrooms, we carried paper soap strips.
Use the Sanitizer and Don’t Remove Your Mask
Considering the hot weather I know it can sometimes get difficult wearing mask for prolonged periods of time.
It took us about 11 hours to reach home including two flights and the layover at the Delhi airport. So I ensured, I changed my mask every four hours. Make sure you cover your nose and mouth at all times with the mask.
I saw some travellers at the airport wearing the mask only covering their mouth and breathing through their nose. Babies do tend to snatch everything off your face including the mask and face shield so it is important to distract them in whatever way possible, with my little one I used her rattle to divert her attention.
Another challenge I faced was holding my baby with the face shield that was provided at the time of boarding. So, I wore the face shield slightly higher up and held my baby lower to ensure that it won’t touch her.
We recently completed 14 days of self-imposed home quarantine for the safety of our family. Thankfully we did not get affected. The airport authorities and airlines are doing a wonderful job of ensuring social distancing and sanitizing everywhere possible. Now, it is up to us to be careful and cautious as much as possible.
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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