FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE: Wanna fly somewhere? Get ready for strict rules and discipline at European airports!
When I had the chance to buy a plane ticket, I didn't hesitate for a moment. After three months of being locked between four walls, being able to visit my family is akin to redemption. On 15 June, most European countries in the Schengen area have opened their borders and allowed air travel again. Thousands of flights were canceled, including mine to Vienna! That's why I didn't believe until the last moment that it will work out in the end. Currently, there is only one morning flight from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to Vienna, which operates every other day. And yay, I managed to get on board after all!
Before the flight, I received an information e-mail about the obligation to wear a face mask at all times in airport premises as well as on the plane, applicable to everyone except children under 11 years of age.
The gentleman to whom I handed over the car at the airport apologized that he would not help me with the suitcase, unfortunately the rules do not allow it.
Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was surprised by a kilometer-long line of taxis, stretching from the other terminal. All those taxi drivers were waiting for incoming customers. The chances that the convoy could begin to shrink were small, because there was just a handful of people at the airport and traveling by taxi is not exactly the safest way of transport these days. That's why I chose to park my car at the airport.
In the end, I successfully checked in and I was pleased to see that my daughter and me would have the whole row of seats for ourselves. Once on board, I found out that the flight's capacity had been changed and that an empty seat needed to be kept between passengers. However, this doesn't apply to those who travel as a family. The same is true for airport halls or restaurants. The boutiques at the airport are mostly closed, but DUTY FREE shops, tobacco and one of the three restaurants are in operation. The airport was quiet, devoid of running, everyone was doing their best to keep discipline. But the atmosphere was reminiscent of the post-war state. Everything was suddenly overly serious and it felt like the cleaning and disinfection staff was greater in numbers than the passengers.
Changes have been made also in the airport lounge, where you no longer put the food on your plate, but wait until you are served. When boarding the plane, the passengers sitting in the back rows are let in first, and then gradually the others towards the front exit of the plane follow. Prior to boarding, they take your temperature. Fortunately, we didn't have the chance to find out what would happen if they found out you're running a fever. It is safe to assume such a passenger would be excluded from the flight.
"Please sit down, make sure the face mask covers your nose..."
...I heard those words every few minutes. The flight attendants were very kind and extremely patient, despite having to constantly admonish the passengers. Instead of smiling, they were using nice gestures and winked at the passengers. No refreshments are served on board, all you'll get is a form to be filled in, asking about the purpose of your journey and whether you are an Austrian citizen. If I were a citizen or if Austria was my end destination, I would have had to fill in an address where I would be staying in a two-week quarantine. I filled out the document, but no one took it back from me.
When disembarking, they asked us to remain in our seats even after the plane stopped and only get up when the seat in front of us is empty. This is to prevent close contact. The airport in Vienna was probably even more devoid of life than the one in France. Upon arrival, large stationary thermometers took our temperature again, no delays, everything went smoothly. The only difference was that we waited for our luggage almost 40 minutes.
After the endless wait, I grabbed my luggage, got in a rented car and left for Slovakia to visit my family. I also spent some time finding out whether I needed to be tested for corona and I called the special line. I was informed that they're only testing on request now and it's no longer obligatory. They still perform the testing in Bratislava. You get there by car, they take a swab from your nose and from your throat, and within 48 hours you receive a text message with the result. The test costs approximately 1,800 crowns.
I crossed the Austrian border to Slovakia without being checked at all. I admit that traveling with a face mask is not entirely pleasant and I can't imagine it for long flights. But it is a necessity and it was certainly manageable. On the other hand - the whole situation at the airport provided a sense of security.