When I left New Zealand to fly to Turkey last year, the whole Covid-19 circus was a bit confronting (see Air Travel in the Covid Age). We were told to wear both a mask and a perspex face shield when boarding and disembarking the plane, and the shield had to stay in place for the duration of the flight. The airline staff who greeted us at the plane door were dressed top to toe in surgical ward safety gear. Now, 6 months further down the pandemic track, I was wondering what regulations Air France had in store for us on our flight to Cairo via Paris.
I’m pleased to report that things seem to have toned down a little. The Air France crew only wore surgical masks (yes they were completely naked otherwise! Come on now tidy up your thoughts), and that’s all we had to wear too (come on what did I just say?). The only other stipulation was that we exit the aircraft row by row. One row was to stand up, collect their bags, and stagger towards the exit before the row behind them left their seats. Upon arrival, this proved impossible to control, as tired, cramped passengers got up and made a bolt for it. Even if it had worked, everyone bottle-necked at the first checkpoint inside the airport anyway.
We had a stopover in France for a couple of hours, and I was surprised to see health workers in full Personal Protective Equipment tramping around the airport.
The Charles de Gaulle management were clearly taking the Covid-19 threat seriously. I wondered if perhaps they were conducting Covid-19 tests on site. However after a while I noticed all the ‘health workers’ were East Asian. I then realised they were not health workers at all but fellow travelers. All were wearing the plastic disposable ‘astronaut’ suits, a mask, and some form of eye protection, including a few examples that looked like scuba diving masks. A couple were even wearing surgical shoe covers. Geez as if long plane flights aren’t uncomfortable enough!
Our flight to Cairo was called, and once again my boarding pass produced a ‘reject’ tone when it was scanned (see Leaving Spain, Second Attempt). Was I going into quarantine in France? Had I got this far, only to be dragged away by the Santé Publique while the space-suited, begoggled travelers watched on? Thankfully the Air France staff member didn’t believe this was necessary, and ushered me off down the hall towards the plane.
We arrived in Cairo somewhere around 11pm. We had been asked by the aircrew to fill in a number of Covid-related forms to present to the Egyptian authorities upon arrival. Short after leaving the plane we reached a checkpoint which consisted of two plastic café tables, behind which sat Egyptian officials on plastic café chairs. They took the lengthy, hand-filled forms from each passenger, checked through them, and placed them into piles on their little circular tables. As the surging queue of tired passengers started to bank up, the officials became increasingly flustered. By the time I reached the front of the line the bloke had pretty much given up, and upon taking my forms, shook his head and shrugged his shoulders and waved me through.
After clearing customs I headed out of the airport, where it seemed like mask wearing either wasn’t required or wasn’t enforced. The cab driver who took me the short distance to my hotel didn’t bother with one. He did bother, sadly, to conform to the Egyptian cab driver stereotype and attempt to jack the price by 50% once we were underway. When he stopped the car momentarily at an airport checkpoint I opened the door and made to get out, which dissuaded any further discussion of extra charges. However when we arrived at the hotel a few minutes later he started up again about an additional tariff I had to pay. I grabbed my bags, told him it had been fun, and walked off.
I had run the Covid-19 gauntlet and made it from Spain to Egypt, and although I was tired from a long day, I have to admit to a bit of boyish excitement. I was in Egypt!