Flying in the time of Covid

Who does she think she is travelling during a time of non-essential travel? Don’t get upset- I’m flying from Canada to the United Kingdom because of work. I’ve also had my first dose of the vaccine. This entire time, I’ve avoided all non-essential travel despite the plane-shaped hole that not being able to travel has left in my decrepit body.

Leading up to my flight departure

I booked the flight using trusty Skyscanner and to my surprise (I shouldn’t have been surprised, there’s a pandemic going on) there were no direct flights from Vancouver to London. They start up again a week after I depart. I also realised how many UK city names Canada has snatched and pawned off as their own- London, Cambridge, the list is endless. It actually is, but those two were the only ones that annoyed me while booking stuff.

One benefit of a worldwide pandemic (other than getting a sexy mask tan) is that flights are cheap. At the moment, you can fly to London for $250 one way (before bags etc.). The Covid testing, however, costs more than the flight.

As of May 27, Canada is on the UK’s amber list (fossilized tree resin much?) so I have to:

– book a pre-departure PCR covid test in Vancouver ($200 through FlyClear, it was the cheapest and there aren’t many options)

– book two tests that will be delivered to my accommodation in the UK for day 2 and 8 (during my 10 days of quarantine) (£100 through Testing for All, it was the cheapest with decent reviews. Some of the other companies listed on the UK gov site had reviews where customers said the company never sent the test out, so be aware)

– fill out an online passenger locator form 48 hours before I leave

Something is bound to go wrong.

I also booked a transfer through Blackberry Cars from Heathrow to Cambridge. I’m allowed to take public transport if strictly necessary but the buses don’t seem to be running and I have luggage that I don’t want to lug around (just realised that word connection). At this point, my muscles have basically atrophied from lack of movement this last year and a half so I don’t even know if I would be able to lift my boarding pass let alone a backpack. We shall see.

Luckily, I don’t have to quarantine in a government-mandated hotel, arriving from an amber country means I can quarantine with friends, family, an Airbnb, etc but the NHS will check on me periodically to make sure I haven’t left the accommodation.

Something is bound to go wrong. I will keep you posted.

UPDATE: June 8 departure

It went as smoothly as travelling during Covid could go. When I booked my pre-flight Covid test, I knew I was cutting the “3 days before departure” close mostly because I timed it to the minute of exactly 72 hours prior. My flight left YVR at 1:15pm on Monday and my Covid test was 1:15pm Friday. This was mostly due to the fact that I was having a weekend getaway (in my health region) before I left the country. I like to keep things spicay. I knew the timing was going to be a problem because technically I was supposed to book my Covid test 3 days before my flight into England but I was transiting through Canada, which is frankly too large of a country. To cover my ass, I emailed the UK government informing them that with the potential turnaround time of the Covid test (48 hours) I had to base the test off my YVR departure, not my YYZ (Toronto) one. After some deliberation, the person agreed it wouldn’t be a problem, if there were no other options. Anywho, I arrived at YVR domestics to check in for my flight 3 hours early and there was a problem.

Anxiety level equivalent: peering at a caged, ravenous tiger through a gate, a bucket of meat slops in your hand

The airport was deserted. I used to work for Westjet and so I know how busy it is at normal times. There were 3 flights on the big black read aboard. THREE.

I get to the check in lady and she looks things over and naturally tells me that she has to check my Covid test timing. She calls her manager over. As he is looking it over, she starts telling me of all the people she has had to deny boarding to because of the Covid test being wrong.

Anxiety level equivalent: you’ve opened the gate and the tiger locks eyes with you, not in a you found your soulmate way but in a looks like meat’s back on the menu boys way

I show the two employees the email from the UK government and after thinking I should have worn brown pants because I nearly shit myself, they let me through. Apparently, some countries go by the hour, others go by day and since the UK does the Covid tests by day, I could board.

Most clothing shops were closed, some food ones also but you could have a parade of animals through the airport and still sit in your chair comfortably. Meaning, it was empty.

My YVR to YYZ flight was maybe 75% full, I had 3 seats to myself.

The flight arrives in Toronto 30 min early and I walk to my new departure gate. I hear my name on the speaker to come to the front desk. Again, the same thing with my Covid test- will they let me on? Yes, they do. They also needed to check my Passenger Locator Form.

The plane was one with 3-3-3 seats; jumbo jet? Whatever kind of plane it was, it was big and empty. I think I saw 50 people and it must hold 350+. We arrive in London, England 40 minutes early, and I breeze through customs (I printed off my proof of work ahead of time).

The car transfer I hired wasn’t there yet but I phoned the guy and he was on his way. I had to wait maybe 25 minutes. They suggest 1.5 hours to clear customs and gather luggage. I did all that in 20 minutes and my flight was early. The transfer was good as a transfer could be I suppose. We didn’t crash.

It wasn’t the cheapest (I paid £115 to go from LHR to Cambridge). There was a company that did it for £15 less but the reviews weren’t appealing. In all fairness, this was one of the harder choices because you just don’t know- some reviews said they never showed up but maybe they’re good.

My test kit with Testing for All was a solid choice. Cheapest, everything was on time AND excellent customer service. The holy grail of spending money.

The self-administered test was a doozy though, in the UK you have to also scrape your tonsils along with your nose. Horrible.

I got my results within 2 days as promised and both my tests were negative. Not sure why I had to stay in quarantine till the end of the 10 days but the NHS phoned me nearly every day to check in (3-5 minute phone call) so I didn’t want to take any chances. Once they said someone in person could check in on me but that never happened. You also have to deliver your test to a postbox so you need to step out for that.

I ordered my groceries with Aldi through Deliveroo since I had free delivery for 14 days (with a minimum order) because I was a new member. It had the staple food items but definitely cost more than in the store. The prices were higher and Deliveroo charges a service fee.

Overall, 4/10 stars. Would not recommend doing but it’s feasible. You may nearly shit yourself in the process though.

#covidtimes #flying #wishmeluck #gothereintheend

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