We love our readers and one of them, despite reaching out in advance of his trip and being advised not to proceed, chose to fly anyway. Here was his experience with COVID-19 ravaged Europe.
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Ill-Advised Trip, But Went Anyway
A LiveAndLetsFly.com reader, Henry, reached out before he booked a trip to see his significant other who resides in Europe. She studies in Paris but her family has a home in Italy. They hadn’t seen each other in quite some time due to coronavirus and they didn’t want to wait any longer.
I advised Henry that Paris would likely not allow him entry even if the airline allowed him to fly. He purchased a ticket through Alitalia for a flight from New York JFK to Paris CDG before connecting on to Rome FCO with Alitalia. At check-in, Air France, who operated the flight, would not ticket him at the airport.
An Alitalia rep was called over but also could not help. Henry was given the use of his ticket as eligible for a future booking in lieu of a refund or nothing; a generous gesture by all accounts.
He created a video of his trip:
Dublin Is Open, But Not Really
Henry had read (elsewhere) that Ireland was open. Based on what I had found, there were few restrictions for visitors to Ireland. Even the US State Department is scant on critical details. Here’s what the Department of State says about travel to Ireland given the coronavirus outbreak:
“Irish Health authorities require anyone entering Ireland from abroad, except Northern Ireland, to either self-quarantine or self-isolate on arrival for 14 days. Exemptions are in place for essential supply chain service providers such as haulers, pilots, and maritime staff. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. There are no restrictions on flights from the United States to Ireland although the number of available flights is significantly diminished. Aer Lingus is the only carrier flying to the United States from Ireland, with limited service from Dublin to Boston, Chicago, and New York. Ireland has implemented travel restrictions for individuals entering from China, Iran, Italy, and Spain. Health Service Executive (HSE) staff are present in at the Dublin and Shannon airports to assist arriving passengers who have concerns related to COVID-19. If you are in Ireland and have symptoms, phone a doctor or dial 112 or 999 locally. If someone tests positive for the virus, the Department of Health (DOH) will isolate and treat the individual.”
Self-quarantining is the only notable restriction, one that Henry didn’t have a problem adhering to. What’s not stated is that hotels will not be able to welcome guests without essential worker documentation.
That’s a key distinction and one that should be included in any notices about the trip. For someone who wants to see their significant other and has no problem with self-isolating or returning home prior to the isolation period expiry shouldn’t have any issue according to this description.
As suspected, streets were barren, and restaurants closed.
Mixed-Feelings in Ireland
Some were appalled by Henry’s very presence in Ireland, others were not. His initial customs and immigration agent was shocked and disapproving, “You know you’re mad” and that he was “endangering” lives. Her supervisor was more critical solely of the experience once in Ireland, confirming that he understood no restaurants, pubs or shops would be open.
Once in the country, however, some were “uninviting” while others rolled their eyes at the precautions that have been put in place. One person mocked the mask as a farce, for hotel management, hesitation was due to a matter of paperwork.
For the avoidance of doubt, no one, including immigration staff nor airline employees, knew of the essential worker paperwork requirement. This was not revealed when booking the hotel, only upon checking in at the desk.
Advice to Other Travellers
Henry advises to wait a little longer and I can understand and agree. Things are opening up regionally (amongst European countries), but globally countries aren’t ready for travel just yet. His optimistic guess is that things will improve in the next three to four weeks.
While Ireland is not ready for tourists just yet, other countries have indicated they are. The US Department of State has a caveat that requirements and conditions change rapidly, but also issued details about who has clearance to move about the country.
None of the travel providers, Hotels.com that sold the hotel, Aer Lingus that sold the ticket, nor the Department of State mentioned the “essential worker” paperwork required. That could have been executed better. While his trip was ill-advised, he is self-effacing that he was trying to find a work-around to restrictions for France and Italy to see his girlfriend. I’ll always give credit to someone who owns their actions, especially if they are a reader. Thank you to Henry for letting us join him on his trip.
What do you think? Would you take a similar trip if you were in the same situation? Do the travel companies have any responsibility to communicate possible impediments to one’s trip?