Back on the Road

Passport & Bag

I have just returned from my first international work trip in 18 months. It was great to be back on the road.

Several people have asked about the practicalities of flying in a pandemic, so here’s a quick review of my own experience in Early September 2021. I hope it’s useful. Of course, it may not be typical.

Reference

I quickly realised random searching for information about international travel was a bad idea. Sometimes information was conflicting or out-of-date. Sometimes it was just badly-written and confusing.

I settled on the UK Government’s website as my primary source of travel information, cross-checked against emails from Austrian Airlines who sent about ten emails relating to COVID-19. This was a good decision. It made staying up-to-date quite straight-forward.

Pre-Flight

I was already double-vaccinated, so downloaded the NHS App and logged-in to access my vaccination record. At this time, the NHS app was not officially integrated with the EU Digital COVID Certificate but was accepted as a proxy in most EU countries. I checked on the government website it was accepted where I was travelling.

As backup I got a letter from the NHS confirming my vaccinated status in case there was an issue with the app. The letter was free to order via the NHS website and took 5 days to arrive. It turned out having the paper copy was a good thing.

I knew there was a requirement for two further tests on the return journey, the first in the three days before flying home. So, before I left, I ordered them:

  • An Antigen Rapid Test from C19 to take with me so I could do the test more easily, without the need to navigate a local chemist or over-pay at an airport. It cost £29 and delivery was quick.
  • A Day 2 test, to take once I was home. I ordered mine from Screen4 for £55. This arrived at home a few days before I got back.

In my case I was flying into Vienna in Austria, and then travelling by car to a second country. Both were green status, and neither wanted a recent negative test result to be allowed in. Some countries do.

Austria didn’t want anything more than official confirmation of my vaccinated status, but the second country required visitors to register on a government website, so I filled in a form and downloaded a copy. This was painless (and in the end it wasn’t checked) but it was something I nearly missed.

Heathrow

On the day, I got to the airport an extra hour early, as recommended, and T2 was deserted. I was literally through security in 2 minutes. Quite a lot of the restaurants & shops were closed. Heston was not cooking breakfast for anyone.

So it was all a bit quiet, but easy to find a seat. One passenger had her dog in a bag on the flight. They both flew Business Class.

When the gate was called, all passengers who had checked-in online were ‘invited’ up to the desk for a document check. After a bit of a queue, they checked my boarding pass (on my mobile), my passport and my vaccination status. As I had this on paper, it was much easier than flipping between apps.

It turns out the NHS App logs you out after 15 mins too, and it is then a bit slow to log back in, so not quite as user-friendly as you would hope.

Vienna

In Vienna I joined the unfamiliar Non-EU queue (shorter than the EU line) for immigration and was asked for both my passport and confirmation of my vaccination status. I showed both. Once checked, in less than a minute, I was free to go on my way.

Border

The next part of my journey was by car. At the border (unmanned on previous visits, but not this time) the car was pulled over and the driver’s details were checked. I had my passport & paperwork at the ready – both vaccination app & letter, and the form I’d got when I registered to enter – but they didn’t check and just waved us through.

Pre-Return

To re-enter the UK, I had to take a test in the three days prior to coming home. Technically, I could have taken it before I left the UK, but I actually took it on day one of a three-day trip, just in case there was a delay in the processing of it.

The Antigen Rapid Test I’d bought in the UK was easy to use. It was just like the ones provided by the UK government.

Once taken, and with a negative result, I had to log in online, input the unique ID of the test, and upload a photo of the test cassette with the unique number hand-written on it, next to my passport.

I then had to sign a declaration that it was my test etc. C19 promised a turnaround of up to twelve hours. In fact, they emailed my certificate in less than four.

I also had to complete the UK’s online Passenger Locator Form that asks for quite a bit of detail, including the unique ID of the Day 2 Test. I assume you could skip this, and do it later, if you hadn’t already ordered one.

It was a clunky form and, unsurprisingly, is mainly concerned with where I’d been and where I was going.

Border

At the land border with Austria we were waved through, with no documents checked.

Vienna

Vienna Airport Departures was significantly busier than Heathrow, but security and immigration were both efficient, as usual.

When the gate was called, all passengers were ‘invited’ for a document check. At this point they checked: boarding pass, passport, Antigen Rapid Test Certificate & Passenger Locator Form.

If the last three had all been on my mobile, it would have been a bit tricky, but I had paper copies, so things were very straight-forward.

Heathrow

T2 Arrivals was wonderfully quiet. The most surprising thing of the whole trip? There were NO checks, other than the standard automated passport scanners. Not a single one.

Finally

Whilst the process was more unfamiliar and bureaucratic than before – and both these things can add a bit of stress – there was an underlying sense of normality about the trip.

For me there was also a real sense of relief that some parts of the world are opening up and confirmation that in-person meetings are well worth additional effort. It was great to be back on the road.

About The Author

Francis Currie

Francis Currie is an International Radio Consultant. He helps radio stations around the world grow audiences by providing expert strategic and operational support. To find out more get in touch.

facebook comments

1 Comment

  • John Evington

    Reply Reply September 9, 2021

    An interesting and useful read. Thanks for sharing Francis.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field