Trials and Tribulations of Travel in the Age of COVID19 – Chapter 2 Part 1

JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS BEFORE TRAVELLING … AS IN THE LEFT DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT DOES …

(Posted 25th December 2020)

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This was the notice in place when I prepared to travel out of Uganda again, the second time since the airport reopened on the 01st of October. I had of course received it, read it and thought I understood it but, alas, reality at Entebbe International Airport proved to be different.
When I traveled first was it was perfectly in order to have the test result certificate saved on the phone, ready for inspection – as reported at the time.
I had undergone testing for this trip on the 15th of December, was due to leave in the evening of the 18th and received my test results on the morning of the 18th.
Saved as a PDF file was I under the impression that this, like last time, was enough to see me through the health check point. I was packed, left thankfully at an early time for Entebbe and proceeded to the checkpoint, with few passengers queuing up at the time.
When whipping out my phone and attempting to show the image on the screen I was, almost rudely, told to go and get a print of it, yet nothing of the sort was included in the CAA notice. One would think that they write in capital letter: PRINTED COPY REQUIRED but that was not so and caught quite a few travelers unaware.
The airline had also not advised that a printed copy would now be needed, available information on line was equally clueless but there I stood, told to go away and get a print.
As one can imagine, this is not an easy thing to accomplish, the airline – KLM – told me their system was down and they could not receive or print anything and I should go away and look for a printing option elsewhere, leaving me to wonder how I was to jump that sudden hurdle standing between myself and my flight.

Thanks to the airport team of Brussels Airlines – these are the guys who always go the extra ‘S’Mile – was I in the end able to get my print done, but when I returned to the checkpoint, were there two long queues and social distancing was frankly laughable.

When I presented the printed certificate it was only briefly inspected, stamped and signed and it then dawned on me that this was job creation, plain and simple because the same information was on the PDF file on my phone. That all these senseless paper copies kill a lot of trees in the process does clearly not ring any bell in the mind of those responsible for having passengers jump through more hoops and over more hurdles, but when ever did decisions taken by government officials make sense.

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With the airport undergoing yet more remodelling was the check in area also crowded this time, several flights checking in at the same time, also belying earlier utterances that flight arrivals and departures would be ‘spaced’ to avoid exactly that, crowding.

Check in was perfunctory, i.e. doing a job, no less but also no more. I was again asked for my test certificate and lo and behold did they ask for the stamped and signed copy – yet not one shred of information to that effect had made it into the public domain, i.e. by email or message to passengers booked with them.

I spent my time until boarding at the Karibu Lounge – notably in operation compared to my previous experience in Brussels where the lounges were closed just as it was the case in Amsterdam during my transit time before flying on to Toulouse. The lounge staff were friendly and a wave away and this was in stark contrast to the experience with the airline.

No duty free sales on board the aircraft – passengers should also be aware of this service downgrade and shop in Entebbe which is well stocked these days. In Amsterdam too, courtesy of a government lockdown, were duty free shops closed, well almost closed, as they were allowed to sell personal toiletry products but not perfumes, spirits or wine or any other goods on display.

Note to husbands and boyfriends: Try not to bring home just a shampoo or hand cream instead of a high end perfume without duly photographing and WhatsApping the closure notice at the entrance of the duty free shop to the one at home who will otherwise be mightily disappointed and might consider to launch ‘sanctions’.

While going through entry security in Amsterdam did I have to take out every single small bottle of liquids from my backpack, such as hand cream, sanitizer spray, sanitizer gel, eye drops, nasal drops and my menthol oil, each of the little bottles being separately inspected, turned upside down and shaken by gloved hands, before I was allowed to move on.

Travel in the age of terrorists wasn’t much fun any longer, with some airports worse than others in handling security checks but travel in the added age of the pandemic truly made the experience worse still.

The only upside of air travel for me is the service on board and to get the best available, try not to fly with an average carrier which has all sorts of things on their corporate minds except the flight enjoyment of their passengers.

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Below are my flight reviews for those readers interested in my ranking

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1-d8729104-r779852698-KLM_Royal_Dutch_Airlines-World.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1-d8729104-r779853388-KLM_Royal_Dutch_Airlines-World.html

My return flight on a brand new Airbus A330-800Neo of Uganda Airlines, from Toulouse to Entebbe, will come up in due course.

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