Flying during COVID-19 is an unforgettable experience, to say the least! A long Odyssey that comes at an expensive price – the cost I have to pay to see my family, I kept telling myself while trying to justify spending more than half of my salary on this journey.
So, what to expect when flying during COVID-19? Deserted airports, COVID-19 tests and empty shops leaving airport passengers with no food or water would be a good summary of it.
But let’s take it all from the beginning…
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I was supposed to be on a series of flights to Greece 🇬🇷 today. Instead, I am stranded in Aberdeen because KLM decided to cancel my flight ✈️ without letting me know. After crying at Aberdeen Airport I came back home and announced my family (who I haven't seen for well over a year) that I can't go home. I'm shuttered and heart broken and I have just spent more than half of my salary on new tickets (1200€ to go from Edinburgh to Paris to Frankfurt to Athens to Thessaloniki, anyone?), hoping that I'll make it back home before the end of my holidays. Better days will come, better days will come, better days will come. I'll keep saying it until it happens. Happy July! (bag, chinos, shoes #gifted)
If you saw Wednesday’s post on my Instagram (@natbeestravels), then I’m sure you already know what happened by now. I was given my annual leave on the 1st of July. I wasn’t happy about it seeing as I would have loved to spend this time with my family in Greece and getting to Greece, or anywhere else in Europe right now, seems quite impossible. I haven’t stopped working since January though so taking holidays was the best thing I could do for my sanity and I accepted the situation.
It took me days of online tsearching and planning until I came up with the plan below:
Take the KLM flight from Aberdeen to Amsterdam on Wednesday morning, wait 4 hours in the Schiphol airport and then get another KLM flight to Thessaloniki. It sounded good, so I booked my tickets and longed for the time to come that I’d get to see my family considering I haven’t seen in well over a year!
My friend Matina and her flatmate Michalitsa, booked the same route with the same airline but their tickets got cancelled days before the trip. I kept checking my emails every night and my passenger’s status in case there was anything pointing towards that direction but there was nothing. I couldn’t believe my luck!
So, on Wednesday morning I went to the Aberdeen Airport and while checking in I was told my trip from Amsterdam to Thessaloniki had been cancelled and they wouldn’t let me board the first leg of my journey. After overcoming the harsh realisation that I wouldn’t be landing to Greece that day and confirmed that I received no emails or phone calls to alert me about the cancellation, I got a refund.
Back to the flat and I was shattered, heart broken and desperate to find a way to spend my holidays with my family and not in the Granite City.
I called Matina and asked her what was their plan B. Meanwhile, I was looking for flights to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Rome – anywhere that had a connection flight to any Greek airport.
Marina’s and Michalitsa’s plan was to travel to Edinburgh, fly to Paris, have a 12 hours overlay in the airport and then fly to Athens the next day. My first response was ‘no way I’m doing this!’. I used to do these long flights when I was a student and by the time I reach home I’d be absolutely broken, physically and mentally. While talking on the phone, I kept looking for tickets to Greece with prices varying from £800 – £1200 for a one way ticket.
After an almost panic attack and extreme desire to see my family and have a proper summer in Greece, I took the bullet and booked the same tickets as the girls.
And so our Odyssey began!
We left Aberdeen early in the morning, the train was empty and after a few hours we got off at Haymarket.
We got the tram and arrived to Edinburgh Airport. The usual gates were closed, we got diverted through a car park and finally through a side door that got us in.
The sight of the airport was sad. Empty with closed shops and no one around to ask about checking in and luggage dropping. We wandered around and after an hour or so, an Airfrance agent came and opened one of the counters.
After going through security we came upon another sad sight. There was only one shop open but it had no fresh food like sandwiches and salads, but discounted Easter eggs and Irn Bru cans. Desperate times call for desperate measures and as we didn’t know how the Paris airport would be, we stocked up on crisps and cereal bars.
Before boarding they took our temperature from distance and before we knew it, we were flying above Edinburgh. There were only 8 departure flights taking place on that day which means there were no delays and everything was moving fast.
Two hours later, we landed in Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport one of the worst European airports if you ask me speaking from personal experience. France has lifted the lockdown restrictions so the flights have resumed, the shops are open and it felt more alive and crowded than in Edinburgh! If it wasn’t for wearing masks and gloves, it would appear as if life was back to as we knew it!
We found a quiet place and tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. The night went by quickly, even though we barely managed to sleep, it was nice to be in such a lovely company and be the three of us. It made the difficulty of this journey appear a bit less dramatic.
Taking off for our morning flight to Athens was slow. There were delays and at points I felt quite claustrophobic with my surgical mask on. The flight in itself though was a pleasure – sunny, smooth and when we reached Athens and I saw the insanely beautiful blue waters I can’t hide it, I cried a bit. OK, maybe a lot!
The sun was glittering on the sea and when we flew on top of Aigina island and then the Acropolis, I felt chills all over my body. How much I’ve missed this beautiful country.
The Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport was by far the one with the most harsh measures in comparison to the Edinburgh and Paris one. Prior to flying you had to fill in a travel form explaining your reasons for flying out to Greece, where is your permanent residency and where you are going to self isolate.
Police officers checked our statements and then we were subject to the COVID-19 test, but this time instead of taking nasal they took throat samples. Much quicker and less painful.
When we finally got out of the airport, it was 39 degrees of Celsius. The air smelled of bougatsa and for the love of God, I couldn’t believe two things: I FINALLY made it home and I’ll FINALLY have a proper summertime. Goodbye grey skies, hello deep blue ones!
Matina’s journey was over, seeing as she is an Athenian. Michalitsa is from Rhodes Island so she had to wait for yet another flight and I had to take the underground to the bus station to go on an additional five-hours journey until I reach my beautiful city, Volos.
As I’m typing this, I’m at the end of this journey and about to enter Volos. My parents will be waiting for me at the bus station and my emotions and excitement are at the highest they have ever been!
What I’m also equally excited about is staying at my flat in Volos that I haven’t visited for 3 years now, seeing as the past years I either spent my time in Corfu or at my parents place in Northern Greece.
Door to door, it took me 33 hours to complete this journey but it was totally worth it and I’d do it again if I had to!
Happy summer everyone!