One month after our first COVID travel experience, travel looked a little different – a Ferry trip back to the mainland was mostly the same, but the flights to Sweden were a bit different than our last set of flights.
Traveling in these times is a bit uncertain. Our first set of flights in May were canceled due to the pandemic, and the EU closed borders to non-residents for most of the spring (even to those like us with resident permits but no existing household.) So, when we rebooked for the first week of August we were gambling on the airlines being up and running, and the borders being open. Lucky for us we won both times!
As you can see above, YVR was super empty, with almost no flights going out or coming in. We had planned to get a bus from Victoria to YVR, but it stopped running because there were no passengers. That worked out anyway, since we got to visit with David, Tom, and Bernie in Minoru Park before heading out. We noticed how few airplanes were in the sky in what is normally a pretty loud and busy airspace.
We flew Lufthansa Vancouver to Fankfurt and then Frankfurt to Stockholm. Since almost no one is flying these days, the Duty Free shops are backed up with merchandise – like super high-end Congnac at 75% that still costs over $100. Knowing it’s expensive in Sweden, we got a few bottles and also some Korean moisturizer.
Lufthansa had a different boarding procedure to reduce crowding, boarding from the back 2 rows at a time. However, they didn’t seem to have this new procedure down yet, leading to chaotic crowding at the gate and in the jetway (the gate agent and flight crew seemed a bit stressed). Unloading was the same thing with requests to stay seated and unload only a few rows at a time, but most folks missed this announcement and jumped up as soon as the engines stopped to wrestle with their bags.
Masks were mandatory in the airport and on board, with announcements reminding folks to keep both their mouth and nose covered. Exceptions were during mealtimes, and happily we order ‘special’ veggie meals so we get served first – meaning that when our masks were off, everyone else was still wearing theirs and vice versa. Apart from masks and some boarding friction, this really felt like a regular flight – except no delays due to traffic, maintenance waits, or queuing to take off and land. (Still don’t recommend pandemic travels if you don’t need to, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d anticipated.)
If we had gotten off in Germany, we’d have gotten a Public Health talking-to and a mandate to self-isolate for 14 days. In Sweden we got… nothing. Not a pamphlet, not a PA announcement, not a suggestion, not a whisper. We breezed through the ‘nothing to declare’ line after collecting our luggage and got a taxi to our new apartment. I’ve been wearing a mask when going to indoor places like the subway, groceries and IKEA… but it is not required and masks are so unusual here that I get funny looks from people. Perhaps like someone in Canada doing it 7 months ago… although discussion of the Swedish approach to Coronaviruset will need to wait for another post.