International travel after quarantine

23.06.20

The first flight from Kyiv to London on personal experience.

17 June 2020 I became a passenger on the first regular post-quarantine flight Kyiv-London. In this article, I want to share my experience of international travel in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

Like many people for whom frequent travel became a way of life, I eagerly watched the opening of the airports. Like all of you, I live with a dual attitude to what is happening on the planet. On the one hand, I want to return to a normal life, meet with those who I care about, and do what I love. On the other hand, how frightening it is to return to normal life, putting in danger myself and those I care about.

Working with children, which our clients send to independent travel abroad, most often the first independent international travel, we always feel a huge burden of responsibility for their safety, quality of their course, and leisure time. Whenever I can, I try to be a pioneer, travel to sites before sending there my students or sending there own to be more confident in the business.

A month ago, in my family have happened the long-awaited and joyful event: in far-away England, my daughter had her first kid. This event would be much happier if I could be with them. Being a hostage to the global situation of the pandemic, I started and ended my every day with news of the epidemiological and economic situation in the world, and especially in Ukraine and the UK, as at these two factors depended not only the revival of my business but also the opportunity to pick up my first grandson.

In a chase of the first flight

On May 24, the UIA promised to resume the sale of tickets, and I was looking for any official information about the resumption of international flights. On May 19, UIA announced that they open the sale of tickets to all destinations from 1 of July. On the same day, Wizzair opened the sale of tickets from Kyiv to London starting from June 5. Analyzing the situation, I realized that it's not reliable information that most likely we won't be able to resume travel freely around the world and that the summer programs for children from Ukraine are likely to be possible not earlier than in late summer and only to the certain countries of Western Europe. While the EU was not in a hurry to open its borders to foreigners in a pandemic, the UK has never closed its borders. At the same time, the British statistics were stopping foreign tourists from a short visit to the misty archipelago.

I really needed to get to London, but doubting that flight, I decided to wait a couple of days with buying tickets. In a day or two Wizzair has rescheduled the first flight to London on July 7, the day after the Ukrainian government announced that the borders open since June 15 and Wizzair has rescheduled the first flight to London again on 17 June. I immediately bought a ticket.

In the next 4 weeks, I lived in anticipation of the meeting with my family and the possibility to travel soon, which was marred by the uncertainty of each next day and fear to jeopardize myself and my family. In the morning on June 16, Zhulhany airport, from which flew on all Wizzair flights, has been closed in connection with deterioration of the situation in Kyiv, preliminary until the morning of June 17. The decision of the city authorities has been expected in the evening. Later on that day, on the website of Borispol airport, appeared the part of Wizzair international flights, including the one to London, and I had hoped that this flight would happen. On the morning of 17 June on Borispol's website, all Wizzair flights were canceled, but on Zhulhany's website reappeared departing flights, including my flight to London.

At Zhulyany airport

Despite the fact that there were few flights that day, I decided to come to the airport early. I was detained by incredible traffic jams, traffic in the city was paralyzed since the beginning of May when people began to return to the offices. Having arrived at the airport 2 hours in advance, I've been sure I had enough time to drop off my luggage and pass all the controls, even if there were surprises with the new security rules.

Knowing that only passengers were allowed inside the airport, I was ready to show tickets and passports at the door, but I just had my temperature measured up. Check-in desks were open only for Wizzair flights, so people were standing in two lines. One long line for the common check-in through airline employees, and second, small - for the self-checking for those who had an e-ticket. Passengers didn't really abide by social distance, distance in a queue does not exceed 1 meter, often much closer. Stripes on the floor for social distances were presented only in the last meters, just 2 stripes before each of the check-in desks.

All the passengers were wearing masks, even with covered noses that had been rarely seen in Kyiv, half passengers were in not medical masks as it was published on the website of the airlines, but of any brand. Airport staff at check-in desks and control was wearing both masks and the protective screens for the face. The flight to London was at 12.50. Before on that day, the other 2 morning flights took off, another flight would take off an hour later than the flight to London, so there were very few people at the airport. At security there was only one checkpoint, at passport control has only been open 2 windows, but there were so few passengers that I went through all the controls in 10 minutes.

All shops and kiosks of duty free were closed. After taking the bench away from the rest of the few passengers, I soon noticed that in one of the cafes behind the counter appeared a bar-attender. Quickly realizing that the tables in the cafe were the most convenient and safe place to wait for my flight, I ordered a bottle of water and move to a remote table by the window overlooking the only parked plane. Boarding has passed normally, the passports were taken into the hands, the social distance was minimal. Though, buses transported 10 people on each bus to the aircraft.

On the plane

The plane was filled slightly more than a half. In each row sat 3-4 people. There were no people traveling on business or leisure. With a 2-week quarantine, which everyone had to pass on arrival into the UK, onboard were only someone's family members. After 40 minutes delay, the captain announced that one of the passengers decided to leave the plane and we expect a security check. After a while, the flight attendant asked us to remove all our hand luggage from the overhead lockers and to make sure that there were no foreign objects. The situation was like in 2011. I Must say that the team worked perfectly, Steward stopped at every passenger and asked if all the items belong to him. After an hour's delay, the first flight to London took off.

Flew in masks, no one was wearing gloves but the flight attendants. During the flight, they sold drinks: hot tea, coffee, strong alcoholic drinks and chips. Water wasn't offered at all, so lucky for those who managed to buy a bottle of water in cafes.

On arrival to London

On leaving the plane, everyone was asked to show the immigration forms with the address and contact details for staying during the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Only after that, we could proceed to the immigration control, and all line consisted only of the passengers of our plane and it took me only a few minutes. I was asked to remove the mask and without a single question, I was let into the UK. Maybe I just got lucky, as the other passengers were delayed longer and showed some papers.

According to the rules, I was obliged to go straight from the airport to the place of my quarantine by the car, which I did, ordering a taxi.

I'm in London and follow my 14-day quarantine. They say that there checking in: you can get a call or police can come to the house to check, and the penalty for violation of quarantine to 3200 pounds. You allowed going to the pharmacy or grocery store if you can prove that no one else could do it for you. But I don't need it.

During my taxi ride through London, I was struck by an empty Regent street and queues to anter supermarkets and drugstores in residential neighborhoods.

The stores allow customers one by one. The news is saying that the government was allowed to reduce the social distance to 1 meter and that from the 4th of July it is planned to cancel the quarantine for visitors, which will replace the mandatory test for COVID-19 at the airport. The test will cost 140 pounds per person and each visitor will have to take it.

There are few people on the streets, all bars and restaurants are closed, but public transport works, it has never stopped here. Most people continue to work from home, but a great return to offices is expected on the 4th of July. All this, as elsewhere, only plans, the situation may change any day, and I don't know when I'll be able to return home, so I enjoy the moment to stay with my family.

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