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“I brought enough hand sanitizer”: Why these people are still flying out of Pearson

By Giordano Ciampini| Photography by Giordano Ciampini

Earlier this week, when the Canadian government warned against unnecessary travel to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, the response seemed appropriate. After all, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic: death counts are rising, markets are plunging and entire countries are shutting down. Hopping on an airplane seems like a reckless indulgence. So, we chatted with people in the international terminal at Pearson to figure out why the heck they’re travelling during the most tumultuous time in recent memory.

"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Hakim Alhusan 57, medical device salesperson, Toronto

Where are you going? I’m travelling to Dubai for business.

Are you worried about the virus? I’m not worried. I just need to take precautions: like washing my hands, no handshaking, trying to keep a safe distance from everyone.

Are you worried about being stranded abroad? I work part time in Toronto, part time in Dubai. So, I was actually worried that flights would be cancelled and I wouldn’t be able to make it there for work.

How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? I brought enough sanitizer for myself. I’m flying business class and I’m happy to share, but hopefully the flight attendants have enough for everyone else.

What did your parents and friends say? My family is okay with it.

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"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Manuel Jorach 21, economics student, Vienna, Austria

Where are you going? I have a ticket to Vienna via London.

Are you worried about the virus? I’m not worried about the virus, I’m worried about getting home.

When did you book your flight? I got my tickets in early January, but I’m not allowed to enter the U.K. because I was in South Korea. So, I’m hoping to change my ticket and connect via Frankfurt.

Are you worried about being stranded abroad? I’m kind of worried about being stuck because many countries in Europe are closing their borders. I just want to get home.

How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? I brought two small bottles of hand sanitizer that I use when I touch things, but I’m trying not to touch anything.

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What did your parents and friends say? My parents and girlfriend are all worried. I just called them this morning to tell them I’m trying to get home. My flight is supposed to leave tomorrow, so maybe I’ll try to enjoy the day in Toronto.


"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Sara Bunemann 28, physiotherapist, Alabama

Where are you going? Back to Alabama, but my flight got cancelled.

Did you get a discount on tickets? I’m here for fun. I got some deals on travel up to Toronto, plus the student discount for Via Rail, but not any virus-related discounts.

Are you worried about the virus? I think that because I work in healthcare and the university I work with has been at the forefront of studying the virus, I guess I know a lot more than the general public. I know it’s something to worry about, but you’ll be fine if you take the necessary precautions and don’t have a compromised immune system.

What did your parents and friends say? My parents told me to go. My dad is in healthcare, so he was fine with it.

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How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? I have one tiny bottle of sanitizer, a bottle of spray and some wipes.


"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Ron Howard 64, retired; Stacey Dahmer 49, school teacher; both from Kincardine

Where are you going? Ron: Varadero, Cuba.

Did you get a ticket discount? Stacey: We got our tickets about a month in advance, so no Covid-related deals.

Are you worried about the virus? Stacey: I’m not concerned about contracting the virus. My concern would be coming home and being quarantined for 14 days. I have three kids at home, so either they have to move out for two weeks or I have to find another place.

How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? Stacey: Oh, I have all the On Guard essential oils I could purchase. It’s a more powerful disinfectant than hand sanitizer.

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What did your parents and friends say? Stacey: My kids are not impressed, because they think we shouldn’t be going. They’ve seen a lot of questionable, not necessarily accurate information in the media. They’re also concerned because my parents are on a cruise ship in Argentina. Ron: I only have a niece at home and she’s not concerned. In fact, she’s probably happy I’m gone! I’m a little perturbed by Air Canada that we weren’t able to cancel our flight, especially after Trudeau warned against unnecessary travel. I just feel there should have been a little more leeway with the cancellation policy.


"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Sergio Polanco 55, engineer and technologist, Cambridge

Where are you going?  My mom passed away this week and I’ve been trying to get to Guatemala for her funeral. But my flight was cancelled because it had to connect in El Salvador. Everything was planned for me to arrive yesterday, so I’m missing most of our ceremonies and they can’t change it. It’s disappointing.
Did you get a discount on tickets? No discounts at the moment. And I paid $100 for a cab to the airport and my flight is postponed until tomorrow. Are you worried about the virus? I suppose I am a little bit, but not really because the chances seem very small. Apparently, there are no cases detected yet in Guatemala. They said they’ll soon be closing the borders to visitors coming from Canada and the U.S. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? Because this was such an emergency, I didn’t bring any hand sanitizer.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Amandeep Kaur 37, bar owner, New Zealand

Where are you going? I’m flying to Vancouver for four days to see some family, then going to New Zealand. Are you worried about the virus? Obviously. I don’t wanna stay in Vancouver for four days, I just want to go home. I’m sort of concerned that I could be stuck in Toronto. What did your parents and friends say? My family is concerned, but there’s nothing they can do about it. I can’t just stay here, though. I need to get home and self-isolate for 14 days. My husband is there looking after the bar. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? Oh, I’ve got lots of hand sanitizer.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Cristian Pinzon 20, student, Medellin, Colombia

Where are you going? I’m flying back to Colombia. I’ve been here studying. Are you worried about the virus? I’m not worried about the virus. I think that it’s not a big problem right now. Are you worried about being stranded abroad? I’m not worried. I know I’m going to get home. What did your parents and friends say? My family feels okay, they aren’t worried. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? I don’t have any sanitizer or other protection.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Miguel Torres 40, chief financial officer, Spain

Where are you going? Back to Spain. I’ve been studying English here for three months. Did you get a ticket discount? We got our tickets about three weeks ago. I don’t really want a discount, I just want to fly. That would be enough. Are you worried about the virus? Not too worried about catching the virus. My family is worried, not because of the disease, but because of the logistical issues around booking flights. Mine was cancelled. It’s difficult to get them to tell us what is happening. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? We bought some hand sanitizer a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of what was coming.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Sharan Keswani 19, chemical engineering major; Insha Khan, 18, communications major; both from Dubai

Where are you going? Sharan: We’re flying to Dubai to visit our families and come back. Are you worried about the virus? Insha: I’m worried that they’ll close the borders. Sharan: Pretty much a matter of time until they start closing them. I’m not super concerned with catching it because if I do, I’m not in a risk category. Are you worried about being stranded abroad? Sharan: I’m more worried about school. Finals are coming up and we’re not sure if we should come back to Toronto. If I get stuck in Dubai, I don’t know how I’m going to do my finals, unless they’re online. What did your parents and friends say? Sharan: My family wants me to come home more than anything. I told them I wanted to stay for finals, but they said they didn’t really care about school, they just wanted me back. Insha: They were worried that I might contract the virus on the flight, being stuck in the air for 13 hours. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? Insha: We have antiseptic wipes, but not hand sanitizer.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Aletha Ellis 42, secretary; Clifton Ellis 9, student; Gayle Ellis 66, military veteran; all from San Antonio

Where are you going? Gayle: Flying to Houston, then to San Antonio. We were in Toronto for spring break. Did you get a ticket discount? Aletha: We booked far in advance, long before they started talking about all this stuff. Are you worried about the virus? Gayle: I’m not so much concerned about the virus. I’m more worried about how long it’s going to delay everything else. Are you worried about being stranded abroad? Aletha: I’m not at all concerned about being stranded here. The kids are off school, so even if we were stuck here, we’d wouldn’t be missing much back home. What did your parents and friends say? Gayle: I don’t think my family is too concerned about us being here because we all have a medical background, so we’ve been taking precautions.
"I brought enough hand sanitizer": Why these people are still flying out of Pearson
Jessica Gomes 33, teacher, Stoney Creek; Vicky Ventura 46, teacher, Oakville

Where are you going? Vicky: We’re going to Cuba. We planned it about a month ago, so, unfortunately, no Covid-related discounts. Are you worried about the virus? Vicky: Not scared. Aware? Yes. Jessica: We’re not oblivious. What did your parents and friends say? Jessica: Our folks think we’re crazy. They’re terrified. How much hand sanitizer are you bringing? Jessica: I’ve packed three little bottles. Vicky: And some Lysol wipes. Both: And some gloves.

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