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Thread: My first international travel post-Covid

  1. #1

    My first international travel post-Covid

    I am on my first international trip since the coronavirus pandemic hit, two weeks to eastern Europe, and it has been both interesting and challenging. I found quite a number of airport businesses either temporarily or permanently out of business due to the pandemic. My favorite place to eat breakfast at the Raleigh Durham airport is closed for good, and the temporary closures at the Vienna airport of restaurants left so few options, I decided to just go with the airplane meals. It appeared that just about everything was open at the Istanbul airport. This was the first time I had connected through the new Istanbul airport and it is a big improvement over the old one. I had a rather short layover, but the only downside is that on a long layover, the great possibllities of travelling into the city that existed now do not due to the new airport being so far out of the city and not having the same great public transportation to old Istanbul that the old one did. For overnight layovers, the new airport also lacks the cluster of close by reasonably priced hotels that the old airport had. A majority of airport lounges at both Washington Dulles and Vienna were closed temporarily. When I went to look for something at a duty free shop at the Vienna airport, the one closest to my gate was closed, the sign still up but all the stock removed. I had to go to the other end of the airport but I found one open there. I flew on three airlines, United, Austrian, and Turkish. In-flight service was essentially non-existent on the UA flight, but it was pretty much normal on Austrian and Turkish. Austrian did not let me chose seats, although its website had claimed I could 23 hours before departure. They assigned me exactly what I always try to get on eastbound overnight TATL flights, a window seat, so I got lucky, and with nobody in the seat beside me. Austrian announced that passengers had to keep their assigned seats and could not move. The airline had spread people out to maximize distancing.

    The worst part was having to wear the face masks constantly for an extended period, both in the airport and on the aircraft, which was true of all three airlines and all four airports. My hard to get N95's. the only masks that offer much real protection were not approved due to the exhaust vents, so I had to go with the next best thing KN95's, which also can be a challenge to find, but not nearly as much so as the N95s. In addition to the lesser protection offered, the KN95s had the loops that held them on around the ears instead of around the back of the head like the N95s. A day after travel, the back of my ears are still red and raw but it was much worse late yesterday. Many travelers were wearing next to useless cloth masks or surgical masks, but those were apparently okay with the airlines and airports.

    The "vaccine passport" cards showing vaccination was only a problem going through passport control. There were two lines, one for those with the digital EU vaccination certification, which was shorter and moved faster and one for those with other proof of vaccination, much longer and very slow moving. If you were not vaccinated at all, you had to stay in quarantine for 14 days. Fortunately, after a long wait in the passport control line, an official came through and allowed some of us into the faster moving line with a slip of paper that he had approved our proof of vaccination. The US CDC vaccination card, which was what I was carrying seem to count more than some of the other paper proof of vaccination cards.

    One challenge on the return flight is that the US requires our own citizens to show a negative test result 48 hours before arrival in the US. With what I have read, those tests do not have the best reliability, so I hope i do not get in a bind from that. When I read that illegal aliens are being allowed into the country with no Covid test at all, it is outrageous that this demand is being made of US citizens. Maybe I should just tell passport control that I identity as an illegal alien and want to claim asylum. Given the travel time to get to the US, jumping through the timing hoops to meet the 48 hours will also be a challenge.

    Fortunately, I am in a country with low Covid rates and virtually everything is open. The masks are required indoors but not outside.

  2. #2
    Class President M. Henley's Avatar
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    Wow!
    M. Henley

  3. #3
    Platinum Contributor Nancy's Avatar
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    Thanks for update.

  4. #4
    I will be starting the return journey Wednesday, and got my required Covid test today, with results tomorrow. This is required by the US to re-enter the country, even for US citizens. Just hope I don't get a false positive. This time I will be flying Lufthansa through Munich, both European leg and trans-Atlantic leg. Will see how close to normal they are. I am sure the masks will be required. I hear they are discontinued on domestic flights within Sweden but still enforced elsewhere in Europe. Lufthansa has already emailed me about the Covid test requirements for the US which the airline will also check in order to board the plane.

    Masks have been hit and miss here. Most restaurants do not require them at all, and elsewhere some do and some don't. Occaisionally people walk around outdoors, even by themselves, with masks on, but most don't wear them unless they are required to do so. It is just as well. Almost all the masks people seem to have are the almost useless surgical masks that don't have a tight fit and don't filter out much. I have seen only a few of the much better tight fitting KN95 masks, and none of the best N95's.

  5. #5
    My Covid test came back negative today, so with that and my vaccination card, I should clear all the Covid formalities. I am going to the airport more than an hour earlier than normal due to all the Covid stuff. I hope the Covid formalities are not so bad at Dulles as if I miss my flight to NC, there will not be another one until the next morning.

  6. #6
    Sitting at Dulles now waiting for last leg home. I got here at supper time, but not a single eating establishment open in all of Terminal C. US Immigration does not check the Covid requirements here. They had a couple of public health officers spot checking people at random coming off the plane before the immigration lines. From what I saw, if they checked one in five, that was high. However, both departing Romania and at the connection in Munich, Lufthansa checked that all Covid documents were in proper form. All the airport businesses seemed to be open in Romania, and due to a tight connection, I did not have time to do much checking in Munich.

    After relatively normal service on the way over with Austrian and Turkish, I was rather disappointed with Lufthansa. My first flight was on Lufthansa-owned Air Dolomiti. In the past their mid day flights offered a decent meat sandwich and one or more beers or soft drinks. Passengers could easily get a second round or more on drinks. Now, it was a plastic bottle of water and that was it. Lufthansa trans-Atlantic was also a disappointment. They used to have great meals for an airline, but on this flight the main meal and the snack were essentially inedible. Beverage service was strictly limited to meals, unlike in the past. I expect no service of any kind on United, just like on the outbound trip.

    The most annoying thing was constantly having to wear this mask for hours on end. The backs of my ears are sore. Everyone on the Lufthansa flight was checked to be sure they were vaccinated and that they had a very recent negative Covid test. Around half the masks being worn were the almost useless surgical masks. I saw some KN95's which are okay but not a single N95, the most effective. Lufthansa in its announcement on masks made a point to mention it was a government requirement, not the airline's.
    Last edited by Carolinian; 09-23-2021 at 12:19 PM.

  7. #7
    Goomba & Super Moderator tonyg's Avatar
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    I really am not surprised that beer was not offered after all the crazy people problems with Americans on planes. Perhaps they think alcohol and food discontinuance would keep the animals calm.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by tonyg View Post
    I really am not surprised that beer was not offered after all the crazy people problems with Americans on planes. Perhaps they think alcohol and food discontinuance would keep the animals calm.
    Most of the passengers on intra-Europe flights are Europeans, not Americans, and that is particularly true these days. Also, the downgrading of beverage service also includes soft drinks as well.

    The only time I have personally witnessed an outburst over alcohol policy, it was a German making the outburst, not an American. I was on a Munich to Atlanta Delta flights soon after Delta starting charging for alcoholic drinks on trans-Atlantic flights. When the stewardess came around with the drink cart, I ordered a Coke with ice since Delta had started charging for beer. The German guy sitting beside me, an older chap who appeared to be a businessman, got quite outraged, telling the stewardess in a very loud voice that Lufthansa would never try to charge him for a beer. He then told the stew how much he had paid for his ticket which was nearly three times what mine cost (those last minute tickets for business trips can get pricy) and for that price he did not expect to have to pay for beer. He finished by telling her he would never fly Delta again and did not order anything to drink. I will admit that a few American sounding voices from father back on the plane were audible with things like "You tell 'em". To me the answer was simple if you had not already bought the ticket. Just book on European carriers instead of ones like Delta.

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