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International Travel During the Pandemic

While the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down many flights, those that remain have significant procedures in place to protect passenger safety. With fewer flights the connecting times can get very long. I experienced 5-11 hour layovers in flights between USA, Turkey and Russia. I also experience re-ticketing at each airport for changing rules and schedules. Including an unscheduled overnight stay in Istanbul to get a covid-19 test to present upon my arrival in Moscow.

Istanbul

Here an Istanbul traveler lowers her mask to eat a snack while she waits for her flight. The seats in the Instanbul Airport indicate where not to sit to maintain a safe distance.

Sanitizer at every desk, free masks and safe distancing are routine. Airline employees are busy checking the rules for flying to each country for each passenger. It is a hectic process and many flights may be changed or canceled requiring a hectic trip out to ticketing and coming back through security. Fortunately most airlines are making changes for free or small fees.

airport

At the gates in Instanbul every passenger has their temperature read as the approach the boarding lane. Some flights have special biometric teams that do facial scans and check passports.

Flyers on Qatar Airlines have had an extra requirement – a full face shield over their mask. The airline provides shields and masks free to travelers. Airport staff spend a lot of time explaining to passengers that it is required to wear masks in the airport and on the airplane.

On the plane the task for flight crew is to keep people in compliance. I witnessed a scattered few passengers who would pull the mask below the nose or not at all as soos as flight crew were further down the aisle. In October on Turkish Airlines it was a constant battle to keep some passengers compliant. It looked like unpleasant work. By November flight crew had taken a little softer approach. After the safety message about seat belts and oxygen masks they added, “Before putting on oxygen masks should it be needed, please remove your face masks!

covid test

Biotest is the name of the Covid-19 testing done at the Istanbul Airport. For about $30 they can provide test results in 5 hours for the continuing traveler. Regarding travelers to Russia, foreigners must arrive with test results dated in the past 3 days. Russian citizens may get a covid test at Russian airports, for $25 and it takes one hour.

Turkey welcomes visitors, borders are open to most countries, and it is very fast to get a visa stamp on the spot for $30 or so. Even so, tourism is down. In the center were mostly people from middle-eastern countries coming to see the beautiful mosques. The next most noticeable visitors were from Russia seeking warmer weather and an open border. For Russians the border is open and tickets reasonably priced.

airport

Masks and social distancing at Vnukovo Airport, Moscow. X marks the seats not to be used to maintain safe distancing.

Any food you can eat at the gate will be better than you get on the airline. Burger Jack in Instanbul is a friendly venue for foreigners with good beef and free wifi.

Travelers can also gain wifi access by using their passport at a kiosk which will print a ticket for a limited rime access for free.

Social distancing and masks at LAX during pandemic 2020

Travelers at the LAX gate with masks and social distancing.

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