What it’s like to travel during quarantine
Quarantine has been a strange time for us all. From the overnight lockdowns to travel restrictions in every country, what was once fun to travel now has new meaning due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Having flown from London Heathrow to Denver the week of June 1st, I wanted to share what it’s like to travel during quarantine as I know this is something many people are interested in.
I’ve been living in London since March 20 where I hold a duel citizenship to the U.S. and U.K., so the mass majority were not allowed to travel to or from either country, I had no issue because of the two passports. When I first arrived into London Heathrow in March, I was surprised that there were no temperature checks and no mention of quarantining yourself – which I did out of safety for myself and others.
Jumping to June 4, I bought a ticket to return. I’ll detail as much as possible to share the experience, including ticket prices, airport info, and what the flights were like.
What it’s like to travel during quarantine
When I first looked, one-way tickets were very expensive. Normally, I was able to get a single journey ticket for roughly $500-$600 on economy, however this time they were an astounding $1,900. I didn’t purchase it and waited a few days, getting my ticket 5 days before my flight. I used Kayak and found a $550 one-way via British Air (with a code share of American Airlines, which is who I would be flying with) and was able to use 30,000 points I had to reduce the price to just over $400. I figured now was a good time to use these points as we don’t really know what travel will be like during the next year.
As it is mandatory to funnel through one of the 13 open airports in the US before flying nationally, my ticket was Heathrow – Dallas – Denver. British Air allowed two check in bags for economy, one carry-on and one purse.
The day of travel
I had heard that airlines were recommending to arrive at the airport four hours prior to travel, but Heathrow’s website said to come at the normal three hour window. My flight was at 11am and so I arrived just before 8am. Heathrow has five terminals, but flights are during quarantine are only going out of terminal 2 and 5.
Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed was that the drop-off was next to empty, which was to be expected. Masks were required and if you didn’t have one they would provide one as you entered. As I walked in, I saw a few people in head-to-toe hazmat suits, which I don’t know why or who they were. Times had definitely changed.
As you walk in there are signs that say no one other than passengers are allowed into the terminal. There was a family who was shocked by this and were saying their goodbyes outside. There was a woman at a table passing out masks and to make sure you had one prior to entering. Once inside, it was empty, a far cry from one of the busiest airports in the world.
There was not a single shop open, no where to get coffee on this lovely early morning. Very few airlines were open as 90% of flights have been cancelled. I lined up in the AA line, as it was just over 3 hours to my flight and they didn’t let you check in until exactly time. I was in line with a big group of army people that were all headed back to the States. Multiple times I was asked if I was a US passport holder or had a visa/green card. I asked them why they were all going back and no one would say, and so my thoughts are that it’s in relationship to having more security for the BLM movement. I could be wrong though.
Once the line opened up, the check in was very simple and all the staff were very friendly. AA does not put people seated next to each other, leaving the middle seat open. I happened to be in the same row as someone else and asked if I could be moved, which was an easy change. I was put in the middle seat of a row, as no one would be allowed to sit on the window or isle next to me. The woman checking me in said that this flight happened to be abnormally busy (my guess is due to all the Army people going back). She did say that most everyone would end up having their own row though.
After getting my bags checked, I went through security which was standard and very quick to pass as the airport was pretty empty. Every person I encountered working at Heathrow was very welcoming and nice. They had signs on the chairs stating you could not sit there, keeping the 6ft / 2m distance.
Once I was in Terminal 2, it looked like a ghost town. No restaurants, no coffee shops, and no regular shops were open. Only Boots and WHSmith were open, where you could get pre-made sandwiches, little snacks and coffee in bottles. The big screens that say all the departures normally have about 10 screens with flights of the day, today they had 1.5 with flights.
I scrolled the internet, messaged with friends, watched some Netflix and waited to board. Finally it was time to get on the flight. The boarding process was very easy and quick, as the flight was very empty. All passengers were very respectful and every single person in the airport wearing a mask.
Although I wanted to take a photo of the plane, I chose to be respectful of others as it’s a strange time and people are already on high alert. We were flying the Dreamliner and this certain plane happened to be quite new, which was a nice thing to have.
After boarding was complete people were allowed to move seats, where anyone who wanted to sit alone had their own row. There was a mother and daughter in front of me, with the middle seat open, one man behind me, and everyone with their own rows to my side. You can’t really tell but I’m smiling in my little selfie photo.
Once settled on the plane, the pilot came on right before takeoff welcoming us to the flight and said we were in for a treat because in all his 30 years of flying he’d never left Heathrow on time, let alone lifting off 15 minutes early. It was a warm and friendly message that definitely put people at ease. Everyone kept their masks on the whole time except when they would eat, then put it back on immediately.
I watched a movie, ate my own food then slept. The service was normal with alcohol being served (I had read someone’s previous account that there was none served, this flight was typical though). The only difference was that you could not choose your meal prior to boarding and were offered either chicken or pasta. I never fly without my own food and chose to bring a container of hummus, a lentil salad, crispy coconut chips, a Kind bar and dates. I bought two big bottles of water in Boots to have on the flight.
The whole flight was quite uneventful. They made requests that under no circumstances were people allowed to crowd together at the bathrooms. Pretty standard though. The whole flight was around 10 hours.
Getting to America – The big changes
Prior to landing in Dallas, we were handed a sheet that was required to fill out asking questions about where you’ve been and if you have had any symptoms. The bottom section was for the screener to fill out. We filled off the plane, being let off 10 people at a time. Before entering customs we were stopped by people who looked at our form to sign it off. What I found surprising was that they didn’t take a temperature check and asked only if you thought you had symptoms, then let you go.
I took the sheet to customs where I have Global Entry so it took about one second to go through, although the regular customs line was super fast due to so few people flying. The gentleman asked me if I was bringing any food in from the UK and I said I had a small pack of dates as a snack for the flight that I didn’t finish, which was enough to be declared. So off I went to a different entrance, handing someone else my passport that had been locked in a case. He waited for me while I got my bags, to which I then had to go get them all x-rayed (this was a lot of moving heavy bags from one place to another). The woman inspecting was surprised I was sent there for the small pack of dates I had) and I was allowed to go through.
For everyone passing through Dallas you have to get your bags then recheck them. I’m not sure if this is normal outside of quarantine or not.
Once I arrived to Dallas it became blatantly obvious that things were very different than London.
For starters, around 1/2 of the people in the airport were not wearing masks. I was surprised to see many restaurants open, especially ones that you could sit in. Having been in London for the past few months, they clearly had way stricter rules than America. In Heathrow you couldn’t buy even coffee, in Dallas airport you could sit at the TGIF or buy beer to go.
I reused my bottles that I bought in London and refilled my water then sat down, waiting to board the flight. It appeared to be quite busy and it still being an AA flight, I wasn’t sure if they were sticking to the every other seat rule. A woman and her husband came and sat down next to me, no masks, eating their McDonalds food. This was a bit of a shock to me as in London people are very respectful of social distancing. I had my mask on still and luckily they started boarding. I cannot say I was too happy about the lack of space or caring about it.
Once again, I chose not to take a photo on the flight as I wanted to respect the people on it.
I was shocked though. The flight was completely full. Every single seat taken, or well nearly. I lucked out and the middle seat next to me was empty with a gentleman at the window, and the seat in front of me empty. Other than that I think every other seat was occupied. The flight was 2.5 hours or so, and there was no service of any kind on it. No drinks served, the flight attendants never leaving their seat.
It was again a peaceful flight and everyone was respectful. They only allowed 4 rows at a time to get off so unloading definitely took longer than normal on both flights.
I arrived in Denver to a very empty airport, more like London than Dallas. There were people gathered at just a few gates where they would be flying out of, otherwise it was not busy at all.
I was surprised at the amount of food places open and unfortunately all terribly unhealthy ones. Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Ben & Jerry’s, Panda Express… hmmm. That isn’t so good. One should never eat this type of food when traveling as it’s very bad for your health when you are at 34,000 feet above ground.
In DIA you go into the underground train to baggage, where my luggage came very quick (both in Dallas and Denver) due to very few other flights and so I grabbed my bags, got picked up and am now in self-quarantine for 14 days.
My thoughts about traveling during quarantine
- Traveling was not nearly as ‘scary’ as I thought it might be. Things were very calm and everything in all airports ran smooth as there are so few passengers
- Wear a mask, especially in America. I’m quite surprised how few people were wearing them and that many didn’t seem to care about being near one another. Understandably, a lot has changed with social distancing since the BLM marches
- I was also a bit shocked at how many people were traveling in the US (mainly in Dallas) and do wonder if people are just totally over the quarantine and Corona pandemic
- Bring you own food. I mean, I always think you should do this, but especially now when there are zero healthy options and most likely all national flights not serving anything
- Be respectful of anyone working at the airport. Well, you should always be kind to people, but especially now because they are required to be there during times of uncertainty
If you have questions or comments drop them below.