This week we were joined by Joe, who is currently training to become a commercial pilot. Joe was completing the second year of his training in Dubai when the coronavirus pandemic hit and unfortunately had to return to the UK. He sat down with us to discuss everything from how his pilot training was affected by the virus, to the impact it is having on the flight industry as a whole. Joe also shares some of his more general travel advice, plus advice for anyone who is thinking of studying abroad.
Reaction to COVID-19 in Dubai
Joe noticed that people in Dubai initially seemed to be quite relaxed during the early days of the virus. This was due a lot of people not thinking it would not be able to survive in the high temperatures. In total, the UAE currently ranks 45th in the world for amount of COVID-19 cases, with 191,150 total in total. However, out of those cases 167,306 people have fortunately recovered. Joe noted that there was also no panic buying at any of the supermarkets, yet that did not stop him from feeling uneasy about being so far from home during this.
“I has just got back from a flight, and they told me I was going home the next day” Joe stated, as he told us how he had less than twenty-four hours to prepare for going home. The company that he was training with had decided to send their students home pre-emptively in the unlikely event that they would get stuck in Dubai. In that time, Joe had to pack his things, say his goodbyes and get to the airport.
How it was leaving and coming home
Upon his arrival, Joe reflected that that there were not too many COVID restrictions put in place, which was perhaps due to the lack of knowledge people had about the virus at the time. “There were hand sanitiser stations at the airport and some of the staff were wearing masks. It was at the time when nobody really knew what to do”. The airport was quiet, as many tourists had already flew home, but many the shops and restaurants were still open – overall the whole airport experience still felt relatively normal.
The flight itself was quiet, with only about half of the plane full. “They upgraded us to business class because there was more space, making it easier for people to social distance” Joe remarked, although this could have been very much a thank you to the students for getting ready to leave at such short notice.
Back in the UK, coming out of the airport seemed a lot more lively than in Dubai The customs process felt relatively normal, but Joe was surprised to see just how many people the airport staff were letting through without any methods of testing and checks. “The priority seemed to be just getting people home before they were stuck abroad”.
Impacts it had on the flight industry
It is no secret that the flight and travel industry have suffered massively due to the coronavirus. Joe found that the majority of airlines have stopped hiring new staff completely in an attempt to cover their losses, and that many manufacturing companies have had their orders for new aircraft cancelled. The sheer lack of demand for their use has also caused many newly created vehicles to be put into either long or short-term storage in order to keep them safe whilst they’re not in use.
Joe is hopeful that international travel will start to pick up in the next couple of months, but that hasn’t stopped him harbouring some slight worries about his career prospects in the future. However, he still has a year of training left
Due to the lack of jobs, Joe is slightly worried about his career prospects as a future pilot. However, he still has another year of training to do so is hopeful that the situation will have improved by then. “It might work out for me – they might start hiring again as I finish my training”.
Conclusion and general travel advice
Overall, Joe had definitely felt that his training had been disrupted by the coronavirus, but was happy to continue from where he had left off back in the UK. In the future he wants to work more within UK airspace, so is taking this time to gain more experience and familiarise himself with it.
In terms of general travel advice, Joe said not to be put off booking a holiday as long as you have the option to get a refund should anything go awry. “If you can be guaranteed a refund then you should be up for it – you don’t really have anything to lose”.
Written by Joe Corfield.