Venturing Outside Hermit Kingdom

It has been two and half years since I last used a passport, last stepped on a plane, last went anywhere overseas. Covid has curtailed travel for most of us and now I am about to venture outside the country again, I’m feeling nervous.

All those viruses lurking out there, mutations of mutations, gathering in airport departure halls and especially in those places where passengers queue.

And what will it be like squashing into a narrow aeroplane seat again, no gaps, no social distancing? Let alone endure that fourteen hour journey from Singapore to London, not too mention all the new procedures, carrying international vaccine certificates, pre-departure PCR tests, Rapid Antigen tests, all aimed at dodging Covid?

I needn’t have worried about catching anything at Auckland International Departures. The concourse was the brood of ghosts. Rows and rows of empty stands, and hardly any passengers. My flight at 3pm was apparently the first departure of the day. Most of the restaurants and shops were shut too – nothing to browse, nothing to buy. The main security/immigration gate didn’t open until two hours before my flight either. Time to find a quiet seat and read.

The flight to Singapore seemed half empty. Only four other passengers in my cabin. The flight onto London was busier, though now the route had changed, the plane taking a much more southerly pass over Dubai and Greece, avoiding the war zone of Ukraine.

London airport didn’t disappoint, however. Here there were crowds – and CROWDS – and CROWDS – literally passengers for Heathrow. A long, winding, back and forth queue, folded at least twenty times on itself, to reach the automatic passport machines. If there’d been anywhere on route where the possibility of catching Covid jumped it had to be here, in the gateway to the country that invented queues. Fortunately most people in the queue were wearing masks, unlike most of the punters on the other side. Few people wearing masks on the train into London and even less on the train north…

Welcome to the first day of travel in a post Covid world.

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