Covid 19 coronavirus: the final flights before lockdown

A man is coughing in the seat behind me on the plane. It’s the type of cough which is hard to distinguish – it could be sickness, or the result of a lifelong smoking habit. Either way, it’s not muffled enough to be confident he’s wearing a mask, or coughing into his elbow, writes Juliette Sivertsen.

It was a snap decision to leave Auckland and fly to my hometown before the lockdown, and one that plagued me with anxiety. Was this an essential trip? Was it socially irresponsible for me to get on a plane? Would the airport and plane be filled with potential carriers of COVID-19? Who am I putting at risk in my quest to dash home before lockdown?

After receiving affirmation from family, friends and my editors, all understanding of my personal circumstances, I booked the flight. The cost of my Air New Zealand ticket jumped $100 within an hour of the lockdown announcement.

I prepared for chaos at the airport. News reports the previous day suggested a manic airport experience led by people panic-flying to their final destination. I expected it to be like flying on the Friday before Christmas, but without the promises of mince pies and brandy on my arrival. I was comforted by the promise of at least wine at my destination.

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