I’m flying this week, not out of any joy or amusement, but to remain a law and visa abiding citizen with family in two continents. In the complicated world we’re living in, it’s not a perfect solution, or answer, but for the safety, health and happiness of my wife, my infant daughter and myself and the importance of not overstaying or risking a future visa, it’s what has to happen. Basically, my wife is a UK citizen, and I am an American citizen who does not (yet) have permanent EU residency.

Initially, we were all going to travel together, but to increase safety, I’m going solo.

Know this from the beginning: I can’t wait for the world to get back to travel and for people to rediscovered their favorite cities, islands and countries near and far, but I’m in no way advocating for anyone to break government advice or travel out of anything other than necessity right now, until governments ease advice. Stay home, save lives and be patient, because it sounds like good news is around the corner, and some silver linings already exist.

In much of the world, positive signs of a reemergence of travel, with people more grateful than ever to participate seems to be something coming as early as June and July, with Spain’s Prime Minister even encouraging foreign visitors to plan trips from July 1st on ward.

So that brings me to this week.

Tomorrow I fly from London to Amsterdam for a short transit before a transatlantic flight to the United States.

I’ll be following US Government advice for those who need to travel right now, including avoiding public transit and ride share services. More than anything – I’m so curious. And yes, I’m an American citizen which is why I’m able to enter the US right now from Europe. As a US citizen my wife and daughter would’ve also been eligible for entry, but will correctly be staying home to mitigate risks.

For decades, flying felt like walking to me, doing it so often that airports and even new airplanes felt like autopilot to a certain extent. There was even a handful of airlines I could recite the safety video word for word, along with every cameo in it. Now, it feels like something else entirely. Will it be?

I’m so interested to see…

  • Any paperwork I may need to fill in-in advance of travel, even for transit.
  • How security will actually be, not just what the guidelines for social distancing say.
  • Whether boarding will have any new and different developments, or will just be empty.
  • Interactions pre-flight and on board. Just how minimized will service and other elements be.
  • Will the entertainment be in tact, wifi, all those things, or is it all changing?

I’ll absolutely be wearing a mask on the journey, and I expect i’ll see the same from all crew, with any hope. I guess what I’m most curious about are all the steps in between. The questions, the viewpoints, the nuts and bolts of transiting internationally during this time as well as screening, other measures and of course – what’s on board.

I will be flying business class, but despite my love of wine and food, I’ve never been much of one to enjoy those things in the air, and if anything I self catered wherever possible long before this. Mainly, I will just feel very lucky to be in a seat with some extra distance between passengers, even though I’ll likely have been subject to social distances collapsing at some point before.

I wanted to write this heads up post in hopes of having your collaboration to answer questions about the journey through images, videos and words of exactly what it’s like right now. Needless to say, it’s a nearly unprecedented time to fly, with so much changing daily.

I’d rather not be flying at this time, but since I am, I wanted to provide a first person account and hopefully answer some FAQ’s people have about everything from borders to service in business class.

The live blog for the trip will be here, starting around 10AM UK time, so basically from the time you wake up on the East Coast USA. Wish me luck, and please leave any questions or things you’d like to see, or have answered about the journey.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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21 Comments

  1. I think you’re overestimating any additional measures. Other than flight attendants wearing masks I doubt there will be much record keeping leaving the UK or entering the US.

  2. Lol, I’ve flown to 4 continents this year, I fly every week, and I don’t need to blog about it.
    I flew back to the USA at the end of March from Australia.
    It was, uhm, completely uninteresting.

    It’s a pressurized metal tube.
    There is nothing exciting that will happen.

    What’s with the theatrics?
    Who could possibly think something exciting will happen?

    Hundreds of thousands of people a day are flying, just in the USA…
    *shrug*
    I don’t get it.

    1. George wrote: “I fly every week, and I don’t need to blog about it.”

      You might as well be blogging about it: you appear to be posting multiple comments per day, on every available Boarding Area blog. 😉 All the work of blogging and none of the income!

      Look, I get it. I’m planning to fly soon myself: first domestically in June, then—assuming there are no quarantine orders in place—to Europe in August. So to some extent I understand your skepticism about the lockdown. But the extent of your obsession with boosterism is ridiculous. You sound as if you’re more interested in convincing others to fly than in actually flying.

      Or perhaps posting is all you’re doing, and you’re not really flying at all….

  3. It’s the same as always. You go to the airport , get on the plane , get to your destination and answer a questionnaire.

  4. Stay safe and will attempt to tune in the morning in the midwest.

    Have a trip booked for September through Doha and looking forward for some intelligence on air travel. If no significant improvement vs. current situation, will cancel.

  5. I didn’t get why your trip was necessary if you’re a US citizen, you don’t need to come back to the US if you don’t want to. Or is it to keep your immigrant status overseas? Let us know how it goes. Safe travels!

  6. What’s the theatrics about and what a weird justification (visa et al) for your irresponsible actions. If your wife and Kids can stay in UK (presumably on similar Visa) and not have visa issues, then why do you have to fly? And even if you would have overstayed your visa, I am sure the UK government has provisions in place to allow for temporary extensions under these circumstances. Either there is something that I am missing that justifies these actions on your part (and further glorification of those through the blog) or you are just writing about and doing this because there isn’t anything else for you to do right now.

    1. My wife is British, I am not. I do not have permanent residency in the UK. It’s not illegal to fly, thousands are doing it daily, but it is illegal to remain somewhere longer than you’re allowed. The only extension is meager and with new quarantine laws coming in place has torpedoed flight links and their planned return, so must move while flight links do exist. That’s all I’ll be saying, but I do very much appreciate the conspiracy theorist approach of the internet. There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing less (let alone glorifying) than being separated from my wife and children for any amount of time.

  7. I decided against flying because Delta is no longer using the A350 on transatlantic routes and catering is severely reduced.

    For example KLM is charging $5,500 for rountrip JFK-AMS travel. On those flights no food is provided. You have a snack and water on your seat when you board. Announcement “Please thank the crew for volunteering to fly today … we will not have any service to protect passengers and crew”

    Will be interesting to see how your Delta longhaul goes.. 9 hours with mask and no decent wine selection sounds a bit ghastly

  8. One for another time but as US spouse, I’m allowed to enter the country like your wife and children but many others are seeing ESTA’s auto expired. CBP advise to speak to your carrier, Carriers direct to general Visa pages on their sites. As far as I’ve understood, were dependent on the information The carrier submit to DHS prior to the booking but trying to get some form of clarification On the matter isn’ the easiest as one would probably expect during these times. Any future advice on how best to have a smooth entry, what to prepare for and what to make known when you arrive at the airport would be appreciated.

  9. At least in the US TSA is now allowing you to bring 1 12 oz bottle of hand sanitizer and 1 pack of wipes on board. Do it if you can there. Many people don’t wear masks during flight and the few planes have short turn around time for cleaning.

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